Not to be left behind, Pfizer has revealed the world’s second COVID-19 antiviral pill which can cut the risk of hospitalization or death by 89%. The pill, scientifically known as PF-07321332, is part of a class of medicines called protease inhibitors and works by inhibiting an enzyme the virus needs to replicate in human calls. Protease inhibitors are used to treat other viral pathogens such as HIV and hepatitis C.
Pfizer says its data on the drug is based on a mid-to-late stage study of 1,219 adults who had at least one underlying medical condition and a laboratory-confirmed infection within a five-day period. Participants were also given a low dose of ritonavir – a medication commonly used in combination treatments for HIV.
The company said there were six hospitalizations and zero deaths out of the 607 trial participants who received the pill in combination with the HIV drug within five days of symptom onset. That compares with 41 hospitalizations and 10 deaths out of the 612 people who received a placebo. Patients in the trial, which has not yet been published or verified, were elderly or had an underlying health condition which put them at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19. They all had mild to moderate symptoms of the coronavirus.
Alber Bourla, Pfizer CEO, said the pill had the potential to save patients’ lives, reduce the severity of COVID-19 infections, and eliminate up to nine out of 10 hospitalizations. “These data suggests that our oral antiviral candidate, if approved by regulatory authorities, has the potential to save patients’ lives, reduce the severity of COVID-19 infections and eliminate up to nine out of ten hospitalizations.”
Dr Stephen Griffin, associate professor in the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds, said the success of antivirals potentially marks a new era in the ability to prevent the severe consequences of Sars-CoV2 infection. “It is also a vital element for the care of clinically vulnerable people who may be unable to either receive or respond to vaccines.”
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Pfizer plans to submit its interim results for the antiviral pill to US medicines regulator the FDA for emergency use application.