Drugmaker Pfizer has developed a Covid-19 pill which has shown the potential to reduce death by 89% for those at high risk of the disease. A Statement released by Pfizer on Friday states that they are halting the clinical
trials due to the pill’s overwhelming positive results and are planning to submit the data as quickly as possible to the FDA to benefit the public.
The pill in combination with a widely used HIV drug called Ritonavir can even be used in case of mild symptoms of Covid. The pill is the second in making after the development of an experimental pill in the UK by Merck & Co. and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP, where studies showed that the pill reduces illness and death by 50% in patients with mild-to-moderate symptoms of Covid-19.
Pfizer’s pill, also known scientifically as PF-07321332, belongs to a class of medicines known as protease inhibitors, which work by inhibiting the enzymes the virus requires to replicate in cells. This class of medicine is also widely used to treat other diseases such as, HIV and Hepatitis C. The company also stated that the low dosage of Ritonavir, allows for slow breakdown of the pill for it to remain active and concentrated in the body for a longer period of time. The pill will have the brand name Paxlovid, with 3 pills given twice daily.
[article continued below video from CBS news]
The data of the clinical trials suggested that the results are based on a study of 1,219 adults with at least one medical condition and confirmed infection within a 5-day period. Overall, there were 6 hospitalizations and 0 deaths out of 607 people who received the pill compared to 41 hospitalizations and 10 deaths out of 612 people who received a placebo. The side effects of the treatment were not released by the company but stated that adverse effects occurred in about 20% of the patients both given the pill and placebo.
Pfizer’s chief executive, Albert Bourla, stated that, “These data suggest 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.”
Pfizer released its data only to the press release, not releasing the complete data of the clinical trials for experts to study and analyse. Pfizer’s pill can be easily taken by the mouth unlike the current treatment options like Remdisivir, which is administered by intravenous infusion to the gravely ill. There are other treatments, such as Monoclonal antibodies, however, the infusions are quite difficult to manufacture.
Pfizer researchers both in the UK and US came together during the pandemic and began experimenting with an antiviral drug developed after the SARS epidemic in 2002. The researchers altered the original molecule which proved to be highly effective against Covid and could also be taken as a pill.
Pfizer also stated that it has plans to offer the antiviral drug according to a pricing system, which would oblige higher and upper-middle income countries to pay more compared to lower income countries.
With the release of the results of the pill, Pfizer’s share prices increased by 11% to $48.55, whereas Merck’s fell by 6.6% to $82.80, and Moderna Inc., Novavax and Pfizer’s partner BioNTech SE were all down by almost 7%.
A Pfizer spokesperson stated that the company is expected to produce 50 million packs by 2022 of which 21 million will be produced this year. The company says it will spend $1 billion in manufacturing and the distribution of the drug.
With the promising drugs coming up to tackle the disease early in its stages, public health experts also say that these drugs shouldn’t be counted as a substitute to get the vaccine.