Blood cleaning, brain-stimulating massages, electromagnetic energy zaps, vitamin cocktails or even having your cells’ energy ‘boosted’.
These are just some of the costly ‘treatments’ being touted by clinics in the UK and abroad that promise to treat long Covid.
Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that 1.7 million people in the UK report having long Covid — defined as symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath and brain fog that last for at least two months.
Around half say their symptoms have lasted for a year or more.
In response, private clinics are marketing a range of therapies to tackle long Covid.
However, experts say these have no scientifically accepted proof of effectiveness (even the NHS’s long Covid services are providing unproven therapies).
Yet several private UK clinics are offering intravenous drip treatments with cocktails of supplements said to help with recovery.
For instance, the private London Clinic of Nutrition, is marketing an ‘intravenous (IV) nutrient therapy’ for long Covid, as well as ‘high-quality supplements’ and ‘bespoke herbal formulas’.
Blood cleaning, brain-stimulating massages, electromagnetic energy zaps, vitamin cocktails or even having your cells’ energy ‘boosted’. These are just some of the costly ‘treatments’ being touted by clinics in the UK and abroad that promise to treat long Covid. A file photo is used above
It also offers diagnostic tests for long Covid: ‘Mitochondrial Organic Acid testing’ and ‘Adrenal stress profiling’.
Our mitochondria are essentially the batteries in our cells, but this test has not been approved for long Covid by the usual medical authorities. As for ‘adrenal stress’, a review of evidence in the journal BMC Endocrine Disorders in 2016 declared that the condition — a sort of hormonal exhaustion — ‘does not exist’.
The clinic has not responded to requests from Good Health for explanations about its treatments. When it comes to IV nutrient therapy, the website says these vary from £90 to £350 per session ‘depending on the type of the nutrient mixture’.
Meanwhile, the Hale Clinic in Harley Street is offering vitamin drips that are ‘redesigned by our infusion specialists in light of the Covid-19 virus to build strength’. It claims its infusions ‘directly target the immune system to help build resistance to viruses and diseases’.
These claims are being made despite a ruling in May 2020 by the Advertising Standards Authority that clinics ‘must not claim IV drips can prevent or treat’ Covid — because there’s no scientific evidence to show they can. The Hale Clinic did not respond to our request for comment.
Other practitioners claim massage may help. A company in Herefordshire, for example, is encouraging people to pay to become volunteers in a ‘UK-wide study’ of the Bowen Technique as a treatment for long Covid.
Bowen practitioners claim that massaging the body in a specific order stimulates nerve pathways between the brain and tissue to have a ‘conversation’.
While there is no evidence in reputed scientific journals, UK practitioners claim ‘impressive’ early results with long Covid.
There are also claims being made online for ‘an electronic bio-resonance machine’ sold on the resonator.uk website, to help people with long Covid.
In June last year the Advertising Standards Authority upheld a complaint by the UK safety watchdog, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), against claims made on the Resonator Facebook page and website that its £97 battery-powered gadget emits ‘energy waves’ that can kill mutated viruses that cause long Covid.
‘The ads must not appear again in the form complained of,’ the ASA’s ruling says. ‘We told Resonator.uk [a company based in Chichester, West Sussex] to ensure they did not make medical claims for a product, unless it was a CE-marked medical device and they held sufficient evidence to support efficacy claims.’
Bowen practitioners claim that massaging the body in a specific order stimulates nerve pathways between the brain and tissue to have a ‘conversation’. A file photo is used above
The website is still running, however, with its claim that for long Covid ‘using the Resonator every day until symptoms disappear will ensure a body free of the virus. This generally takes a week or two’.
The firm’s owner, Anthony Grant, told Good Health: ‘The Resonator is not a medical device and does not require a CE mark.’
He also claims ‘the Resonator is a very serious device, and if every home had one, there could never be another pandemic’.
Meanwhile, desperate long Covid patients are travelling abroad and paying thousands of pounds for private treatments yet to be proven for their condition.
The Kempten hospital, near Munich, offers a ‘blood purification’ process called apheresis that was developed originally for heart attack patients.
This removes tiny blood clots from the body — some scientists believe minute blood clots can be a consequence of viral infection and thus potentially to blame for long Covid symptoms.
‘I know patients are going to Germany for apheresis,’ says Amitava Banerjee, a professor of clinical data science and a consultant cardiologist at University College London.
‘It’s an invasive treatment and I know of no strong evidence to support its use for long Covid.’
Professor Banerjee, who is the co-principal investigator of the STIMULATE-ICP study, a government-funded initiative to establish how to diagnose and manage long Covid, says his email inbox ‘is full of people asking about private treatments or diagnostics’.
‘I also see patients who have spent thousands flying abroad for things that currently lack medical evidence,’ he says. ‘They feel they’ve been failed by clinicians and don’t know what to do.’
Which brings us to the question: what is the NHS offering? The UK has more than 80 specialist NHS long Covid clinics that take referrals from GPs and are staffed with doctors, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and mental health professionals.
And while much of what they offer (such as physiotherapy) may have been proven for other conditions, none has been the subject of a major trial for long Covid.
Last July, the Department of Health and Social Care trumpeted the news that 15 new medical studies covering more than 4,500 long Covid patients were being launched at a cost of £20 million.
‘Thousands of people suffering from long Covid will benefit from new research programmes to help better understand the condition, improve diagnosis and find new treatments,’ it said at the time.
When Good Health asked for updates on progress, a spokeswoman would only say: ‘An extensive programme of 22 research studies is currently ongoing.’
Professor Banerjee says there is still a lot of mystery surrounding long Covid. ‘It’s definitely a syndrome but we haven’t fully defined it yet,’ he says.
‘We have potentially several different diseases within a disease. We’re not quite there yet with knowing the mechanisms — or the medications to use.
‘Patients are understandably getting frustrated and feel that we are not moving quickly enough. And because there has been a gap in provision of long Covid treatment, some private companies have been quick off the block to sell things that purport to fill it.
‘But we should be really worried about anyone who says they fully understand long Covid and have a curative treatment for it, because there is no evidence for that yet in global scientific communities.’
Dr David Strain, a senior clinical lecturer at Exeter University Medical School, is also working to find new ways to diagnose and treat long Covid.
He warns: ‘These private clinics have popped up because at the moment no one knows what the proper treatment is. But if you see a clinic that offers to cure your long Covid, then they are lying.’
‘No one can offer a cure for long Covid because we don’t even know what long Covid is doing to people yet — let alone how we can fix it.’