In a breaking announcement on Friday in the US, Pfizer has announced a dramatic success in its trial of an anti-Covid pill. The trial found an 89% reduction in hospitalisation or death among high risk patients.
The drug, called Paxlovid, inhibits an enzyme that the coronavirus needs in order to replicate. It is designed to be given upon a positive test, or at first notice of exposure.
Pfizer’s trial included 1,219 patients at various sites around the world, split into a trial group and a control group. All study participants had at least one underlying medical condition associated with an increased risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19 (diabetes, obesity, advanced age, et cetera).
Just 1% of patients who received Paxlovid within five days of contracting the virus were hospitalised, with no deaths. In the control group, 6.7% were hospitalised and 10 people died (1.6% of the cohort).
Just as with the Merck anti-Covid pill, the study was ceased for ethical reasons after these deaths in the placebo group. The two drugs work differently and both are effective, but these early results suggest the Pfizer pill may be more so.
Results are now pending review by regulatory authorities.
“All of us at Pfizer are incredibly proud of our scientists, who designed and developed this molecule, working with the utmost urgency to help lessen the impact of this devastating disease on patients and their communities,” said Mikael Dolsten, President of Worldwide Research, Development and Medical of Pfizer.
The company has promised to offer the new pill, if approved, at a “tiered pricing” level in relation to countries’ ability to pay, “to promote equity of access across the globe.” “Our goal is that everyone in the world would be able to have it as quickly as possible,” said Pfizer CEO Albert Boula.
The intent is welcome, although it does contrast with accounts from Latin American government officials regarding their vaccine access negotiations with Pfizer. No price estimate for the Pfizer anti-Covid pill has been released, but the Merck pill, approved by British regulators on Thursday, costs USD $700 for a five-day course.
Pfizer’s share price jumped 11% in trading on Friday following the announcement.
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