Antiviral pill cuts COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths by 89%, Pfizer says

Pfizer announced recently that a new COVID-19 pill reduces the risk of death or hospitalization by 89% if taken within three days of symptom onset.
In a placebo-controlled clinical study, the antiviral pill PAXLOVID was administered to COVID-19 patients who were at risk of severe illness. The pill blocks an enzyme called a protease, which is required by the virus SARS/CoV-2 to continue replicating.

Because the drug was so effective, an independent data monitoring panel recommended that the trial be stopped. This would allow people in the placebo-arm to receive the drug. According to Pfizer, the company plans to submit the data to FDA for emergency authorization.

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The clinical trial enrolled more than 1,200 people in the U.S. who had been positive for SARS-CoV-2. Participants were at risk for severe disease if they had any underlying conditions. According to The New York Times, none of the participants had been vaccinated. The participants were given either PAXLOVID in combination with ritonavir (an HIV drug Pfizer claims slows down the drug's breakdown, which allows it to stay longer in the body) or a placebo pill every 12hrs for five days.

Only three of the 389 participants who received PAXLOVID within three working days of symptom onset were admitted to hospital and none died. In contrast, of the 385 who received placebo within three working days, 37 were admitted and seven died.

Six of the 607 PAXLOVID-treated participants were admitted to hospital within five days after symptom onset. None of them died. 41 of the 612 people who received placebo within five days of symptom onset were admitted and 10 died. According to the statement, adverse events were similar between experimental drug groups and placebo. Most were mild.

This is not the first COVID-19 drug to be created. The FDA is currently reviewing Merck’s COVID-19 tablet, molnupiravir. The company claimed that it could cut COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations by half if taken within five working days. The Associated Press reports that the pill was approved in the United Kingdom.

According to the Times, PAXLOVID, a modified version a decades-old drug, was originally developed to treat SARS-CoV-2 intravenously during the epidemic. It can now be taken as a pill and is available as a modified version.

Original publication on Live Science