Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla remains upbeat about their experimental at-home pill designed to treat COVID-19. He said that the COVID-19 oral drug may be available by the end of this year.
The company announced late last month they started Phase 1 clinical trials of the drug, which they labeled PF-07321332. The drug’s effectiveness is due to protease inhibitors in the drug that binds to viral enzymes, preventing viruses from replicating in the cell.
According to Pfizer, protease inhibitors have proven effective in combating other viral pathogens such as HIV and hepatitis C.
Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer’s chief scientist, explained the need for medication outside of vaccines. “Tackling the Covid-19 pandemic requires both preventions via vaccine and targeted treatment for those who contract the virus.
Given the way that SARS-CoV-2 is mutating and the continued global impact of Covid-19, it appears likely that it will be critical to have access to therapeutic options both now and beyond the pandemic,” Dolsten said in a statement.
Anti COVID-19 Measures
Health experts hope oral medication can become a game-changer in the fight against COVID-19. If given an emergency use authorization (EUA), the at-home pill can function as a critical weapon to help health care officials fight coronavirus. Patients will only need to take the drug orally at the first sign of illness.
Instead of checking into hospitals, COVID-19 patients can now take the medicine within their homes. Hopefully, the drug will prevent the progression of the disease and help avoid costly trips to the hospitals.
At the same time, it also lightens the load for overloaded hospitals and frontline workers. Once clinic trials complete and the FDA issues a EUA, the US can start distributing the at-home pill.
Vaccine for Children
Pfizer is one of the first pharmaceutical companies to develop an approved COVID-19 vaccine. Created in tandem with German firm BioNTech, the vaccine secured emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration last year.
The vaccine features a class of medicines called protease inhibitors. It combats COVID-19 by inhibiting an enzyme that the virus needs to replicate in human cells. Also, scientists also utilized protease inhibitors to treat other viral pathogens such as HIV and hepatitis C.
In addition to the at-home pill, Pfizer is testing its COVID-19 vaccine in children 6 months to 11 years old. Even as adults continue to receive vaccinations, ensuring children get inoculated remains critical to develop immunity.
Earlier this month, Pfizer requested the FDA to allow it to expand its vaccine authorization to adolescents ages 12 to 15 after the shot was found to be 100% effective in a study. Bourla said he is “very optimistic” that the FDA will approve the use of the vaccine in adolescents.
Get Vaccines to Third World Countries
In addition, Bourla asserted the need for increased access to vaccines by impoverished nations. “In a pandemic, you are as protected as your neighbor,” he said. Setting aside moral issues, developed countries with access to vaccines should provide solutions for areas still dealing with deadly outbreaks, such as India and Africa.
Otherwise, those nations “will become the pool where the virus will replicate and will generate variants,” Bourla warned. For their part, Pfizer Bourla will produce at least 2.5 billion doses of their vaccine this year. Annualized, this means the company can produce 3 billion doses every year.
There Are Other Therapies Apart from Pfizer
Pfizer isn’t the only company working on an at-home pill. Rival Merck is also working on an oral medication they called Molnupiravir.
Discovered by Emory University scientists, antiviral therapy is undergoing late-stage trials in both hospital and outpatient settings. Merck and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP expects to have initial data on the drug’s effectiveness during the first quarter and finalize the results by May. If approved, patients will need to take Molnupiravir twice a day over five days.
Watch the NBC News video reporting that Pfizer is currently working on a pill to treat COVID-19:
Do you think that an at-home pill to cure COVID-19 will be ready by year-end? Will you take one instead of a vaccine?
Let us know what you think. Share your thoughts about anti-COVID-19 medication in the comment section below.