Pfizer says its antiviral Covid-19 pill cuts risk of hospitalisation or death by 89%

A possible turning point in the battle against Covid.

Sulaiman Daud | November 06, 2021, 02:08 PM

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Not one but two pills have been designed to fight off severe illness and death in people infected with Covid-19.

Pfizer's pill

American pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced an update on Nov. 5 on their antiviral pill for Covid.

Reuters reported that a trial was stopped early after it was shown to cut the risk of death or hospitalisation, for adults at risk of developing severe disease, by 89 per cent.

Pfizer said an independent board of experts monitoring its clinical trial recommended that the study be stopped early, because the drug’s benefit to patients had proved so convincing, The New York Times reported.

The company said it planned to submit the data as soon as possible to the Food and Drug Administration to seek authorisation for the pill to be used in the U.S.

Clinical trial results

The planned analysis of 1,219 patients in Pfizer's study looked at hospitalisations or deaths among people diagnosed with mild to moderate Covid, and who had at least one risk factor for developing severe disease, such as obesity or older age.

It found that 0.8 per cent of those given Pfizer's drug within three days of the onset of symptoms were hospitalised.

Not a single patient had died in the 28 days after treatment. Meanwhile, the placebo patients saw a hospitalisation rate of 7 per cent for placebo patients, with seven deaths recorded.

The company did not explain in detail possible side effects of the treatment, but said adverse events happened in about 20 per cent of both treatment and placebo patients.

The treatment involves three pills taken twice daily.

Vaccines still important

However, vaccines remain the most "effective and reliable tool" to fight the pandemic, according to Grace Lee, a pediatrics professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

She told Reuters: "These oral medications are going to augment our ability to really reduce the risk of severe disease, hospitalisation and death, which is huge, but it won't prevent infection."

Merck & Co's pill

In early October, American pharmaceutical company Merck & Co announced they had come up with a pill that may be able to reduce the risk of hospitalisation or death of Covid patients by about 50 per cent.

Merck claimed that molnupiravir has been effective across all Covid viral variants, including the highly transmissible Delta variant.

The pill works by introducing errors into the genetic code of the virus that causes Covid. It is not capable of inducing genetic changes in human cells.

A few days later, American pharmaceutical company MSD announced that it had a supply and purchase agreement with the Singapore government for molnupiravir.

In early November, Reuters reported that the UK became the first government in the world to grant regulatory approval to molnupiravir. Patients on the pill will take it twice a day for five days.

The UK is battling another surge in Covid cases, with around 40,000 daily cases according to a seven-day average from Nov. 4.

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Top image from Pixabay.

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