Clinical study data reveal that a pill created by the US corporation Pfizer to treat Covid reduces the risk of hospitalisation or death in vulnerable adults by 89 percent.
Paxlovid is a medicine that should be taken as soon as symptoms appear in those who are at high risk of developing severe disease.
It comes just one day after the UK Medicines Agency authorised a Merck Sharp and Dohme therapy (MSD).
Pfizer claims that because the initial results were so promising, it decided to end the trials early.
The UK has already placed orders for 250,000 courses of Pfizer’s new medicine, which has yet to be licenced, as well as 480,000 sessions of MSD’s molnupiravir tablet.
Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, described the findings as “amazing,” adding that the UK’s drugs authority would now review the drug’s safety and effectiveness.
“If approved, this could be yet another important weapon in our arsenal against the virus, complementing our vaccinations and other therapies,” he said.
The Pfizer medicine, known as a protease inhibitor, is designed to prevent the virus from multiplying by blocking an enzyme it requires. It stays in the body for longer when taken with a low dose of another antiviral drug called ritonavir.
For five days, three pills are taken twice a day.
The combo medication, which is still experimental because trials haven’t been completed, works in a slightly different way than the Merck tablet, which causes faults in the virus’s genetic code.
As part of the emergency use application it initiated last month, Pfizer said it planned to submit interim trial findings for its drug to the US pharmaceuticals regulator, the FDA. Neither business has released the full trial results.
According to President Joe Biden, the US has already secured millions of doses of the drug.
The pill has the potential to “save patients’ lives, minimise the severity of Covid-19 infections, and eliminate up to nine out of ten hospitalizations,” according to the company’s chairman and CEO Albert Bourla.
The outcome of the trial
Vaccines against Covid-19 are viewed as the most effective strategy to prevent the pandemic, but there is also a demand for therapies that can be administered at home, particularly for those who are most vulnerable when they become sick.
According to preliminary results from trials of the medication in 1,219 high-risk individuals who had recently been infected with Covid, 0.8 percent of those who received Paxlovid were admitted to the hospital, compared to 7% of those who received a placebo or dummy tablet.
They were treated within three days of the onset of Covid symptoms.
There were seven patients who died in the placebo group, but none in the pill group.
When administered Paxlovid within five days of the onset of symptoms, 1% of those who received it ended up in the hospital, but none died. In comparison, 6.7 percent of the placebo group was admitted to the hospital, with ten of them dying.
Patients in the trial, which has yet to be published or verified, were elderly or had an underlying health condition that made them more susceptible to Covid’s serious disease. They all had mild to moderate coronavirus symptoms.
“The success of these antivirals potentially marks a new era in our ability to prevent the severe consequences of Sars-CoV2 [coronavirus] infection, and is also a vital element for the care of clinically vulnerable people who may be unable to either receive or respond to vaccines,” said Dr Stephen Griffin, associate professor in the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds.
Pfizer is also looking into how the treatment affects persons who are at low risk of Covid disease and those who have previously been exposed to the virus through a family member.
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