Pfizer Inc. announced Friday that its experimental COVID-19 pill slashed the risk of hospitalization and death by 89% in infected high-risk people.
The five-day treatment, when given within three days of infection, was so effective in a clinical trial that an independent monitoring committee recommended the trial be stopped early, Pfizer said.
The antiviral pill, the second of its kind to show the power to guard against severe COVID, appears to be even more effective than a similar offering from Merck.
Merck’s pill, molnupiravir, halved the risk of severe disease in high-risk patients. British regulators cleared the pill for use this week in people who are diagnosed with COVID-19 and have at least one risk factor for severe illness, the Washington Post reported. In the United States, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory committee plans to meet shortly after Thanksgiving to assess Merck’s pill. Merck has said it can produce 10 million treatment courses in 2021.
As for Pfizer’s antiviral pill, the findings haven’t been peer-reviewed or published yet, but the data will be submitted to regulators “as soon as possible,” the company said in a news release.
The drug, which will be sold under the name Paxlovid, is designed to prevent the coronavirus from making copies of itself.
“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 Paxlovid “can have a big impact on helping all our lives go back to normal again and seeing the end of the pandemic.”
“We’re looking at end-to-end protection and treatment,” Anderson told the Post. “We have the vaccine for protection, and now we have an opportunity for treatment.”
Pfizer has already started making the drug and expects to produce more than 180,000 pill packs by the end of this year, boosting that to a total of 50 million in 2022, the Post reported.
No price for the pill has been disclosed by the company.
Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more on COVID treatments.