The US multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology corporation Pfizer announced that its experimental antiviral pill to treat COVID-19 can cut the risk of hospitalisation and death by 89 per cent in vulnerable adults. The company shared the initial findings of the clinical trials on Friday.

The drug to be sold under the brand name Paxlovid was highly effective at preventing severe illness in vulnerable adults who received the dose soon after they started showing symptoms of the infectious disease during the trials. It is a combination treatment, consisting of three pills given twice daily.

The antiviral drug is the second of its type in the market to demonstrate efficacy against Covid. This new antiviral drug offers more protection as compared to the one developed by another American pharmaceutical company Merck, which is awaiting authorization in the US and received approval yesterday in the UK.

Soon after the result of the efficacy of the antiviral drug was revealed in the clinical trial, the pharmaceutical giant stopped the study. They said that the board of experts monitoring the trial was so convinced they decided to halt the trial in the initial stage.

The company has not yet revealed the full-finding on the trial, but they are planning to submit the data as soon as possible to the US Food and Drug Administration to seek authorization of the usage of the pill.

In the initial finding, Pfizer analysed 1,219 patients with the risk of hospitalizations or deaths after being people diagnosed with mild to moderate COVID-19 and the presence of at least one factor that can lead to severe infection, such as obesity or older age.

The team of researchers found that only 0.8 per cent of those given Pfizer’s antiviral drug within three days of onset of COVID symptoms were hospitalized while none had died by 28 days after treatment. They compared the data with a hospitalization rate of 7 per cent for placebo patients in which seven people died.

Based on the initial trial of the study, the company in its statement said that antivirals need to be given as early as possible to reduce the risk of complications. The drug can control the viral from causing grave damage before an infection takes hold, in order to be most effective, which is within three days.

“We saw that we did have high efficacy, even if it was five days after a patient has been treated … people might wait a couple of days before getting a test or something, and this means that we have time to treat people and really provide a benefit from a public health perspective,” Annaliesa Anderson, head of the Pfizer program, told Reuters.

Till now the company has not released details of the side effects of its antiviral drug. They only said that adverse effects happen only in 20 per cent of the cases.

“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 Chief Executive Albert Bourla said in a statement.

Pfizer is planning to produce more than 180,000 packs by the end of 2021 and at least 50 million packs by the end of 2022.


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