Pfizer said Friday that its experimental antiviral pill for COVID-19 reduces the risk of hospitalization and death by 89% in high-risk adults.
The drug, dubbed Paxlovid, was so successful that a group of outside advisers recommended that Pfizer end its clinical trial early and seek Food and Drug Administration authorization to distribute the pill in the United States as soon as possible.
“The results are really beyond our wildest dreams,” Annaliesa Anderson, a Pfizer executive who led the drug’s development, told The New York Times. She expressed hope that the pill “can have a big impact on helping all our lives go back to normal again and seeing the end of the pandemic.”
The Associated Press provides more details:
Pfizer released preliminary results Friday of its study of 775 adults. Patients taking the company’s drug along with another antiviral had an 89% reduction in their combined rate of hospitalization or death after a month, compared to patients taking a dummy pill. Fewer than 1% of patients taking the drug needed to be hospitalized and no one died. In the comparison group, 7% were hospitalized and there were seven deaths.
“We were hoping that we had something extraordinary, but it’s rare that you see great drugs come through with almost 90% efficacy and 100% protection for death,” said Dr. Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer’s chief scientific officer, in an interview.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC that they will submit their data to the FDA before Thanksgiving and that it could be available to Americans by the end of 2021.
The Washington Post adds:
Pfizer has already begun manufacturing the drug and projects producing more than 180,000 pill packs by the end of this year. The company is working to rapidly scale up manufacturing to at least 21 million packs in the first half of next year, with a total production of 50 million packs in 2022. The company did not disclose the price.
The Times explains how the drugs works:
The origins of Pfizer’s pill stretch back 19 years, to the SARS epidemic. Early last year, Pfizer began modifying the drug’s design so that it could be used to fight Covid and taken as a pill rather than intravenously.
Pfizer’s drug is in the class of so-called protease inhibitors that are commonly used to treat H.I.V. and hepatitis C. The drug is designed to stop the coronavirus from replicating by blocking the activity of a key enzyme that the coronavirus uses to replicate inside cells.
Paxlovid is the second antiviral pill developed to treat COVID-19. Earlier this week, the U.K. authorized the use of Merck’s molnupiravir, which reduces the risk of death and hospitalization from COVID-19 by 50%.
The AP adds:
Top U.S. health officials continue to stress that vaccination will remain the best way to protect against infection. But with tens of millions of adults still unvaccinated — and many more globally — effective, easy-to-use treatments will be critical to curbing future waves of infections.