On Tuesday, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC that an antiviral pill that can be ingested at home to treat COVID-19 when it is first detected might be available by the end of 2021. Bourla also confirmed that trials are under way in the U.S. and Belgium, noting “it is accurate” to say Pfizer is “working on” these therapies.”
Bourla said that Pfizer is testing two antivirals, one that is administered orally and one that is injected. This antiviral treatment is thought to also work against COVID variants. The focus is currently on the oral version, as it “provides several advantages” for both the patient and the community. An oral option can allow the patient to avoid going outside to visit a healthcare provider or make a trip to the hospital.
“We have designed PF-07321332 as a potential oral therapy that could be prescribed at the first sign of infection, without requiring that patients are hospitalized or in critical care. At the same time, Pfizer’s intravenous antiviral candidate is a potential novel treatment option for hospitalized patients. Together, the two have the potential to create an end-to-end treatment paradigm that complements vaccination in cases where disease still occurs,” Pfizer’s chief scientific officer Mikael Dolsten said.
The drug, which is called PF-07321332, is considered effective due to protease inhibitors in the drug that bind to viral enzymes. This binding prevents viruses from replicating in the cell. Protease inhibitors have also proven effective in fighting other viruses such as HIV and hepatitis C.
In a press release, Dolsten also explained, “Tackling the Covid-19 pandemic requires both prevention via vaccine and targeted treatment for those who contract the virus. Given the way that SARS-CoV-2 is mutating and the continued global impact of Covid-19, it appears likely that it will be critical to have access to therapeutic options both now and beyond the pandemic.”
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