Objectives: Anosmia is a common debilitating symptom of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Currently, there is no satisfactory treatment of anosmia. Therefore, this study was conducted to evaluate the therapeutic effect of nasal betamethasone drops in the recovery of olfaction in COVID-19-associated anosmia.
Methods: The study was designed as a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. In total, 276 PCR-confirmed COVID-19 patients who were presented to the outpatient clinic with anosmia were enrolled in the study. In the betamethasone group, 138 participants received nasal drops of betamethasone 3 times daily until recovery for a maximum of one month. Similar dose of 9% NaCl drops was administered to 138 participants in the placebo group.
Results: The median age of participants was 29 years (IQR 23-37). Among them, 198 (71.7%) were females. Ageusia was co-presented with anosmia in 234 (84.8%) of participants. In this study, 83% of participants had recovered from anosmia within 30 days, with a median recovery time of 13 days (IQR 8-18). Compared to placebo, nasal application of betamethasone drops has no significant effect on the recovery time of anosmia (hazard ratio 0.88; 95% CI 0.68-1.14; P = 0.31).
Conclusion: The use of nasal betamethasone to facilitate the recovery time of acute anosmia is not advised. In addition, age, smoking status, the duration of anosmia at presentation, and the co-presentation of ageusia with anosmia are important determinant covariates for the recovery time of anosmia. Further clinical trials, which take these covariates into account, will need to be undertaken. The trail has been registered at ClinicalTrails.gov, NCT04569825.