Pfizer says Covid drug offers strong protection and should work against Omicron
Pfizer’s Covid-19 antiviral pill lowers the risk of hospitalization or death in high-risk patients by up to 89 percent, according to final study results, which confirm earlier data.
The positive results come after a competing antiviral from Merck is shown to be less effective than initially hoped and at a time when the new Omicron variant is being launched in several countries.
Although the study took place while Delta was the dominant variant of the coronavirus, Pfizer believes the antiviral known as paxlovid is likely to work against Omicron. An early laboratory study showed it continued to work against Omicron, and other studies are ongoing.
Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s chief executive officer, said his data was “further confirmation” that the antiviral candidate would have “meaningful effects on the lives of many”.
“Emerging concerns of concern like Omicron have exacerbated the need for accessible treatment options for those infected with the virus, and we are confident that this potential treatment, if approved or approved, could be a critical tool in containing the pandemic .” he said.
The US drug maker, which is still ramping up production, has announced that it will offer only 180,000 courses this year. She has raised her target to 80 million places for next year.
Paxlovid also lowers the risk of hospitalization and death for standard-risk patients by 70 percent, the study showed. The drug works best when given for the first time within three days of symptoms appearing, but is still 88 percent effective within five days in high-risk patients.
The results come after Merck was forced to reduce the effectiveness rate of its antiviral from 50 percent to 30 percent. While the UK has approved the Merck pill, the US regulator has yet to make a decision after scientific advisors narrowly voted in favor.
“This positive result will add significant market share to Pfizer and lead to another two years of massive revenue losses,” said Geoffrey Porges, an analyst at health care investment bank SVB Leerink, although he said it would depend on how quickly the company delivers the drugs could deliver.
“There is no reason to believe that this drug will not be equally effective against Omicron and, therefore, could be our best hope and the greatest beneficiary of the coming global Omicron wave,” added Porges.
The final high-risk patient data showed that of 697 people given Paxlovid, only five were hospitalized and none died. In contrast, 44 of the patients given a placebo were hospitalized and nine died.
In an interim analysis for standard-risk patients, two of 333 patients who received the drug were hospitalized compared to eight in the placebo arm. There were no deaths in any of the bargaining arms.
However, the studies only included unvaccinated participants, so there are no data on how the drugs reduce the risk for vaccinated patients who are already at lower risk of developing serious illness.
The Pfizer drug must be taken with ritonavir, a generic HIV drug, to keep it in high enough concentration in the body to fight the virus. A potential problem is that many high-risk patients may find that ritonavir cannot be taken with their current medication. Pfizer said the drug interactions could be addressed in many cases.