Pfizer says its antiviral pill is highly effective in treating Covid

Pfizer says its antiviral pill is highly effective in treating Covid


Pfizer announced on Friday that its pill used to treat Covid-19 was shown to be highly effective in preventing serious illness in those at risk who received the drug soon after symptoms appeared in a major clinical trial, making it the second antiviral Pill makes that there is evidence of effectiveness against Covid.

The drug appears to be more effective than a similar offering from Merck pending government approval. Pfizer’s pill, sold under the brand name Paxlovid, reduces the risk of hospitalization or death by 89 percent when given within three days of symptoms onset.

Pfizer said an independent panel of experts overseeing its clinical trial recommended ending the trial early because the drug’s benefits to patients had been shown to be so convincing. The company said it plans to submit the data to the Food and Drug Administration as soon as possible to apply for approval of the pill in the United States.

“The results really exceed our wildest dreams,” said Annaliesa Anderson, a Pfizer executive who led the drug’s development. She expressed the hope that Paxlovid “can have a major impact on our lives returning to normal and the end of the pandemic being reached”.

Introducing a new class of easy-to-use pills that drastically reduce hospital stays could help overcome the worst part of the pandemic, at least in affluent countries, where most adults have been vaccinated.

Pfizer and Merck’s pills, which can be dispensed in pharmacies and taken at home, are said to reach far more people than monoclonal antibody treatments, which are usually infused intravenously in a clinic.

Pfizer treatment could be available in the next few months, although supplies are likely to be limited at first. Pfizer and Merck’s pills are both aimed at patients who are considered high-risk patients, for example over 60 years of age or with conditions such as obesity that make them more prone to the serious consequences of Covid.

President Biden said Friday that the pill “will be another tool in our tool kit to protect people from the worst effects of Covid,” but stressed that the best approach is to prevent infection through vaccination.

Pfizer expects to have enough pills for more than 180,000 people by the end of this year and more than 21 million people by the first half of next year. Merck has also announced that it intends to ramp up production next year.

The US government is negotiating with Pfizer enough pills for 1.7 million courses of treatment with an additional option for 3.3 million, according to a senior administration official. That is roughly the same amount that the USA ordered from Merck. The government expects to pay around $ 700 per treatment cycle for both drugs, the official said.

A number of wealthy countries, including the UK and Australia, have also tried to block supplies of Pfizer’s drug.

Pfizer said it plans to offer the drug to poorer countries at discounted prices. The company has held talks with a United Nations-backed nonprofit, Medicines Patent Pool, to facilitate the manufacture and sale of the pill in those countries. Merck has already reached a similar agreement.

The treatment consists of 30 tablets given over five days. This includes 10 tablets of ritonavir, an old HIV drug that helps Pfizer’s drug stay active in the body longer. (The Merck treatment course is 40 tablets over five days.)

So far, the pills have mainly been tested on high-risk patients. However, Pfizer also conducts studies in low-risk patients and people in the same household as those infected with the virus.

The efficacy results announced on Tuesday included data from more than 1,200 adults in the US and abroad who received either Pfizer’s drug or a placebo pill after contracting Covid. The volunteers were enrolled between July and September when the Delta variant spread around the world. They were unvaccinated and had at least one trait that put them at greater risk of developing the virus seriously, such as old age or obesity or diabetes.

Pfizer’s 89 percent effectiveness came from the group of volunteers who started treatment within three days of symptoms appearing. Including those who started treatment on the fourth or fifth day, the pill reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 85 percent.

In contrast, the Merck pill was about 50 percent effective when given within five days of symptoms appearing, although the different design and timing of the Pfizer and Merck studies make such comparisons inaccurate. Monoclonal antibody treatments reduce hospital stays and deaths in high-risk Covid patients by at least 70 percent, but these treatments are more expensive and cumbersome to use.

Study participants who received the Pfizer pill mostly reported mild side effects at a slightly lower rate than those who received the placebo pill. That was a promising sign of the drug’s safety, suggesting that Covid symptoms are likely more bothersome than any side effects of the pill.

The origins of the Pfizer pill go back 19 years to the SARS epidemic. Early last year, Pfizer began designing the drug so it could be used to fight Covid and taken as a pill instead of intravenously.

Pfizer’s drug belongs to a class of protease inhibitors, which are commonly used to treat HIV and hepatitis C. The drug is said to stop the coronavirus from replicating by blocking the activity of a key enzyme that the coronavirus uses to replicate in cells.

Pfizer also said its studies showed the drug is safe and does not cause any mutations of concern. Some scientists have raised these concerns about Merck’s pill, which works by introducing flaws in the virus’ genetic code to prevent replication. Pfizer’s pill doesn’t do that.

The UK, which became the first government to approve Merck’s pill on Thursday, recommended not using it in women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or who could become pregnant while on treatment and four days afterwards.

Carl room and Stephanie Nolen Reporting contributed.



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Rachel Meadows

Rachel Meadows

Trending topics news writer who enjoys cooking, walking her dog and travel.

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