Post-Covid treatment: Do you really need it?

99% survivors don’t, say health experts. Still, hospitals prescribe costly drugs for prolonged periods of time, inflating treatment cost
Post-Covid treatment: Do you really need it?

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Indiscriminate use of drugs to treat Post-Covid Syndrome, which has affected lakhs of people after recovery, is the reason for the rise in its treatment cost. However, health experts point out that 99 per cent of Covid survivors do not actually require treatment for Post-Covid Syndrome, or Long Covid, which is the lingering of symptoms for weeks or months after recovery. The most common symptoms are fatigue, breathlessness, joint pain, chest pain, sleep difficulties, anxiety and worsening quality of life.

Though hardly a few patients require serious post-Covid treatment, many are being prescribed drugs for minor issues and that too for prolonged periods of time. As per the health department, over seven lakh people have been treated at its post-Covid clinics till January. This could be higher if private consultations and the fact that more people have been infected since January are considered.

Health experts have called for prescription auditing of the drugs to promote their rational use and avoid over-medication for treating post-Covid symptoms. What worries them the most is indiscriminate use of costly drugs to treat scarring of lungs when people complain of breathlessness.

They say breathlessness and cough, commonly associated with Post-Covid Syndrome, can be traced back to heightened stress level and the drugs given to treat them are not required for 99 per cent of recovered patients. Also, since post-Covid symptoms persist for long, the tablets – which cost Rs 6,000 for a one-month course – are prescribed for six months or a year which is not justifiable.

“Drugs like Nintedanib and Baricitinib are being prescribed without evidence. Strictly speaking, they are not prescribed for post-Covid inflammatory lung fibrosis, which is actually self-limited (stops progressing after a certain stage). What would cost 99 per cent of recovered population in Kerala less than Rs 100 for treatment, now costs Rs 1.5 lakh in private hospitals,” said a doctor seeking anonymity.

Internal medicine specialist Dr N M Arun said Post-Covid Syndrome can mostly be treated by symptomatic management and there is no proof to back the use of Nintedanib for treating it. “Most people have doubts about being breathless. Though 99.99 per cent do not require treatment, they are not convinced if doctors say the symptoms will subside gradually. So, doctors prescribe vitamins. Still, use of Nintedanib can be considered over-medication. We do not know how it will benefit even those with serious post-Covid issues,” he said.

The Academy of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine (APCCM) too has demanded rational use of the drugs for post-Covid treatment. “Drugs like Nintedanib and Pirfenidon are being increasingly used to treat post-Covid patients. Most of patches (in lungs) in patients will disappear by themselves in 12 to 16 weeks. Over 99.99 per cent do not need these anti-fibrotic drugs,” said Dr P S Shajahan, APCCM president and professor of pulmonary medicine at Government TD Medical College, Alappuzha.

Experts call for prescription auditing
health experts have called for prescription auditing of the drugs to promote their rational use and avoid over-medication for treating post-Covid symptoms. What worries them most is the indiscriminate use of the costly drugs to treat scarring of lungs when people complain of breathlessness. They say breathlessness and cough, commonly associated with Post-Covid Syndrome, can be traced back to heightened stress level and the drugs given to treat them are not required for 99 per cent of recovered patients.

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