As increasing numbers of patients report long Covid symptoms, a Larnaca healthcare centre is offering treatment for the condition, attracting foreign visitors to the island to receive expensive and unproven relief.
Testimonies by several people experiencing long term effects of the virus revealed they had paid thousands for apheresis, a process where all the blood is removed, its components separated and then retransfused into the body, among other experimental treatments.
The treatment is offered by the Long Covid Centre located near the Rizoelias roundabout in Larnaca, but also private clinics in Germany and Switzerland, a joint investigation between ITV News and the British Medical Journal (BMJ) revealed.
According to their reports, the Cyprus-based centre has treated around 120 people with Long Covid symptoms. The Long Covid Centre was not immediately available for comment.
But a Linkedn page under the same name suggests they are “treating Long Covid patients with H.E.L.P. Apheresis treatments and other treatments to recover from Long Covid.”
Each cycle costs around €1,770, and some people have had more than 20 cycles, ITV reported.
Briton Paul Pettinger, who contracted Covid in 2020, said he was experiencing headaches, brain fog and cognitive issues and decided to travel to Cyprus for the apheresis treatment.
He was on the seventh session and told ITV he had noticed a difference, and has confidence in the process.
“After each treatment, I experienced a small improvement,” he says. “It is the only treatment out there at the time being and so far it’s working.”
Others who tried the expensive treatment failed to see the same result, raising ethical questions about the reliability of the clinics.
Gitte Boumeester, a trainee psychiatrist in Almelo, the Netherlands, said she tried the treatment in Larnaca after developing severe Long Covid symptoms. She said there was no improvement to her symptoms after six rounds of apheresis, costing €1,685 a session, at the Long Covid Centre.
Boumeester also underwent nine rounds of hyperbaric oxygen costing up to €150 a session, together with an intravenous vitamin drip and a vitamin D injection at €50 each at the Poseidonia clinic next to the Long Covid centre.
On Thursday, the Poseidonia healthcare tweeted a photo showing a man receiving a treatment in England with the caption reading: “Firefighters with Long COVID in the West Midlands, UK, receive hyperbaric oxygen therapy”. According to their website, the same treatment is offered by them.
A spokesperson for the Poseidonia clinic told BMJ that all treatments offered are “always based on medical and clinical evaluation by our doctors and clinical nutritionist, diagnosis via blood tests with lab follow ups as per good medical practice.”
The BMJ said it had contacted Cyprus’ ministry of health and the Cyprus Medical Association to ask whether the clinic or doctor were breaking any professional or ethical standards in the country but did not receive a response.
On Thursday, the Cyprus Mail also contacted the health ministry and was informed that the relevant official was not immediately available.
Last year, the World Health organisation said “current evidence suggests approximately 10 -20 per cent of people [who develop Covid-19] experience a variety of mid- and long-term effects after they recover from their initial illness.”
Some of the symptoms, according to WHO, are fatigue, shortness of breath, cough and muscle pains, while some report depression, anxiety and memory, concentration or sleep problems.
People with this condition “may have difficulty functioning in everyday life,” WHO added.