Friday's announcement by Pfizer was a major step towards ending the pandemic. It said that a clinical trial of its COVID-19 pill had proven it to be highly effective.
Since the beginning of the global crisis, people have been searching for a simple way to cure the coronavirus at their homes. All treatments to date have been intravenous, or with vaccine shots.
Pfizer's anti-COVID pills are second to Merck. Merck is an influenza medicine that has been rebranded to combat the coronavirus. Pfizer's was specifically designed to combat COVID.
According to the US company, Paxlovid, a Pfizer drug, saw an 89 percent decrease in hospitalizations or deaths among adults with COVID. This is compared to patients who are at high risk for developing severe illness.
Pfizer announced that the results of the clinical trial at the mid-to-late stages were so strong, that it will cease recruiting people to the trial.
Pfizer will immediately submit the data to FDA as part of the "rolling submission" for Emergency Use Authorization.
Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, stated that today's news was a game-changer in global efforts to stop the pandemic.
He said that these data indicate that the oral antiviral candidate has the potential to save lives, decrease the severity of COVID-19 infection, and eliminate as many as nine of ten hospitalizations if it is approved by regulatory authorities.
The data analysis focused on 1,219 adults from North and South America, Europe and Africa.
Some of the patients were administered the experimental drug immediately upon symptom onset, while others received a placebo every twelve hours for five days.
Pfizer stated that the scheduled interim analysis revealed a 89 percent decrease in COVID-19-related hospitalizations or deaths from any cause in patients who were treated within three days of symptom onset.
Ten people who had taken the placebo were killed, but none of those who received the Pfizer medication died.
Pfizer planned to test 3,000 people, but it stopped after reaching 70 percent because of the promising results.
The search for a Pill
Many companies are currently working on oral antivirals. These would be similar to the Tamiflu drug for influenza, and could prevent severe complications.
Britain became the first country in the world to approve anti-COVID pills on Thursday. It approved Merck's antiviral drug molnupiravir for patients with mild to moderate coronavirus.
Pfizer's "protease inhibitor", also known as Pfizer's drug, has been proven to block the virus' replication in laboratory testing.
It will not work in real life if it is effective in the initial stages of infection.
COVID can progress to severe illness when the virus has stopped reproducing and the patients are suffering from an overactive immune system.
Intravenously, COVID therapeutics like monoclonal antibodies or Gilead's Remdesivir that are authorized for EU use under the name Veklury were not available until now.
Merck's Molnupiravir, originally developed by Emory University in Atlanta to combat influenza and respiratory syncytial viruses two other important acute respiratory illnesses, was first developed by the team.
Britain, one of the worst-hit countries by the pandemic in recent years, announced that it had ordered 480,000 doses molnupiravir on October 20.
Pfizer has also conducted two clinical trials of its pill among patients who are not at high risk for developing severe COVID.
Roche, a Swiss pharmaceutical giant, is also working on a COVID tablet.