Treatment challenges remain for long COVID

Doctors still face many challenges in the diagnosis and treatment of long COVID, according to a new survey.

The survey, by US specialist Medscape, reveals that few physicians report regular success in treating the condition, and only one in 10 feels well informed about potential treatments, while a majority lack a nearby multispecialty clinic to which they can refer patients.

At the same time, nearly half of physicians report seeing fewer people with long COVID compared with 1 year ago, suggesting the prevalence may be decreasing.

In the first comprehensive national poll of doctors about their experiences treating long COVID patients, Medscape surveyed practicing physicians online in August and September. The 451 respondents included 350 primary care doctors and 101 doctors in specialties likely to see people with long COVID: 25 pulmonologists, 37 neurologists, and 39 cardiologists. A total 432 of these doctors regularly see patients.

“It’s been frustrating for me as a cardiologist,” said Raymond Carlson, MD, who is in private practice in Hamilton, a rural area in upstate New York, who participated in the survey and agreed to expand on his answers.

“There is a general sense that people are seeing less long COVID. That’s a good thing, and we can speculate a little bit about why that is,” said William Schaffner, MD, professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and ex-officio medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, when asked to comment on the findings.

“The lesser frequency over time of new long COVID patients makes sense with more immunity built via vaccines, boosters, infections, and hybrid [immunity],” said Eric Topol, MD, founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, California, and editor-in-chief of Medscape Medical News.