Just one day after Merck has announced that its COVID-19 pill molnupiravir has been cleared for use in the U.K., drug maker Pfizer Inc has announced that it too has a take at home COVID-19 that reduces hospitalisation and death in high-risk patients by 89%.
The American multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology corporation Pfizer said in a statement on Friday that “due to the overwhelming efficacy” of the pill that they had stopped the clinical trials of the treatment early and planned to submit the to U.S. regulatory authorities for emergency authorisation as soon as possible.
Today is a proud day for @Pfizer. A day when the power of our science and our scientists’ ability to rapidly advance a homegrown asset for the benefit of humankind is on full display.
Here is a quick thread:
— Albert Bourla (@AlbertBourla) November 5, 2021
This means that there are now two promising treatments for treating COVID-19 at the first sign of symptoms of the disease, which could be a crucial step towards fighting the disease globally.
“We’ve already secured millions of doses and the therapy would be another tool in our toolbox to protect people,” says U.S. President Joe Biden about the pill.
Pfizer shares have soared by as much as 11% as of 11:30 a.m. New York, its biggest intraday rise in a year, while Merck fell as much as 10%. Some vaccine makers swooned, with Moderna Inc. down a record intraday 22% and Pfizer partner BioNTech SE sliding 20%.
In Pfizer’s trial of 1,219 unvaccinated adults, five days of treatment with its pill dramatically reduced hospitalisation rate when it was started within either three days or five days of symptom onset. The drug, Paxlovid, binds to an enzyme called a protease to stop the virus from replicating itself, working in a way similar to some HIV drugs.
The COVID-19 pill is to be taken twice a day for five days and used in combination with a second medicine called ritonavir that helps the Pfizer compound stay in the bloodstream longer.
Pfizer says that the results, which haven’t been published in a medical journal as yet, were highly statistically significant.
Overall, only 0.8% of people who started treatment within three days of getting sick ended up in the hospital and no one died, while 7% of people who got a placebo in that window were later hospitalised or died. Similar results were found when the treatment was commenced within five days of symptom onset.
“We are really over the moon that we did see such high efficacy in this study. It has tremendous implications for patients globally,” said Annaliesa Anderson, chief scientific officer for Pfizer’s hospitals business unit.
In a third large trial, Pfizer is testing whether the pill could be used as a prophylactic medicine for people who are a close contact or who live with someone who has contracted the virus, meaning a person would take the drug to prevent contracting COVID-19.
The need for a pill is so acute that the first in the world with the green light by authorities for an oral treatment Merck has already agreed to allow generic drug makers to apply for licenses to make its treatment for more than 100 low- and middle-income nations, before it has even been cleared in the U.S.
Pfizer said it planned to offer the antiviral therapy through a tiered pricing approach during the pandemic with high and upper-middle income countries to pay more than lower income countries, although the corporation is yet to reveal exactly how much it will charge.
Pfizer currently expects to produce more than 180,000 packs of the drug by the end of this year at least 50 million packs by the end of 2022, with 21 million produced in the first half of the year.