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New Pfizer pill works against COVID-19, trial shows hospitalisation not needed in 89% cases

New Pfizer's COVID-19 pill reduces risk of being hospitalized by 89%, company says. (Photo for Representation)

A trial of Pfizer Inc's experimental antiviral pill COVID-19 was stopped early after the drug was shown to cut by 89% the chances of hospitalisation or death for adults at risk of developing severe disease, the US pharma giant announced on Friday.

Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla called the drug a potential “game-changer” in a statement.

“These data suggest that our oral antiviral candidate, if approved by regulatory authorities, has the potential to save patients’ lives, reduce the severity of Covid-19 infections, and eliminate up to nine out of ten hospitalisations,” he said.

The results appear to surpass those seen with Merck & Co Inc's pill, molnupiravir, which halve the likelihood of dying or being hospitalised for COVID-19 patients also at high risk of serious illness.

The combination treatment, which will have the brand name Paxlovid, consists of three pills given twice daily.

Also read:  UK becomes first country to approve Merck pill to kill COVID-19

The planned analysis of 1,219 patients in Pfizer's study looked at hospitalisations or deaths among people diagnosed with mild to moderate COVID-19 with at least one risk factor for developing severe disease, such as obesity or older age.

Pfizer said it was currently expecting to produce more than 180,000 packs by the end of 2021 and at least 50 million packs by the end of 2022.

"We are currently bringing on additional capacity and ramping up further and we look forward to updating these numbers in the coming weeks," the company said.

Infectious disease experts stress that preventing COVID-19 through wide use of vaccines remains the best way to control the pandemic, but only 58% of Americans are fully vaccinated and access in many parts of the world is limited.

Pfizer's drug, part of a class known as protease inhibitors, is designed to block an enzyme the coronavirus needs in order to multiply.

Merck's molnupiravir has a different mechanism of action designed to introduce errors into the genetic code of the coronavirus. Britain became the first country on Thursday to approve Merck’s medicine.