Ocala company reveals new COVID-19 drug for virus ‘long haulers’

Additional patients are in the process of being enrolled

OCALA, Fla. – There’s a new COVID-19 drug in town and the company behind it hopes the treatment will help those suffering from post-COVID-19 infection chronic fatigue-like symptoms, who have been dubbed “long haulers.”

AIM ImmunoTech Inc. announced Wednesday that they officially provide the first dose to their first patient with the drug called Ampligen.

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The company believes this to be the first clinical trial to treat a patient with COVID-19-induced chronic fatigue-like symptoms.

“COVID-19 caught us by surprise, but COVID-19-induced chronic fatigue is not a surprise. We can guarantee it’s coming, and we know it now because the first cases are showing up,” said AIM ImmunoTech CEO Thomas Equels.

Officials with the company said the trial would also include patients previously diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Those who continue to live with symptoms of the virus have been dubbed “long haulers.”

“Bodily pain, problem thinking and concentrating. We also see troubles with sleeping and breathing,” said Dr. Charles Lapp, Medical Director at the Hunter Hopkins Center. “The patients with long-haul symptoms are generally very debilitated and unable to work or go to school.”

Lapp at the Hunter Hopkins Center is overseeing the study in North Carolina. He said many of his patients have been dealing with symptoms months after recovering from coronovirus. In fact, studies with the National Institutes of Health show that 50 to 80% of patients continue to have symptoms three months after contracting the virus.

“I’ve been meeting with some of the patients and hearing their story and feeling their pain. Many of these people, when they expressed their symptoms to their doctors were told it was a psychological problem... they were dismissed as being depressed,” said Equels.

Ampligen is an infusion therapy given to a patient over the course of a year rebuilding the immune system that may have been damaged as a result of contracting COVID-19.

“Restructuring the immune system to make up for these deficiencies that resulted from the damage from the initial acute infection,” said Equels.

Doctors said the study may prove the drug to be effective in just a few months, addressing a problem that may affect millions of Americans in the coming months. If it is effective, AIM will have to get approval from the FDA for a larger-scale trial.

Equels said those involved in the study have already been cleared from COVID-19 and continued to have symptoms relating to chronic fatigue syndrome for at least three months following their recovery from the virus.

About the Authors:

Crystal Moyer is a morning news anchor who joined the News 6 team in 2020.