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Pfizer Tests New Oral Drug That Could Prevent COVID-19

Pfizer oral drug
Pfizer is studying a new pill that could counteract coronavirus infections. Credit: Dr. Janos Korom, CC BY-SA 2.0

Pfizer announced on Monday that they are testing an oral antiviral drug that could stop coronavirus infection after exposure. The announcement comes at a time when scientists and researchers across the world are broadening their range of treatments against COVID-19 and its variants.

The pharmaceutical company said it would begin a mid-to-late stage clinical trial test on the drug, currently known as PF-07321332, to see if it is effective in treating COVID-19 infections in 2,660 adults with normal immune systems living in the same household as people with who have tested positive for COVID and are symptomatic.

Approximately one third of those participating in the trial will be given a placebo, with the rest of the participants receiving the oral drug twice a day for five to 10 days.

Pfizer’s oral drug functions by blocking a crucial enzyme that the coronavirus uses to multiply. The pill will be given along with a ritonavir, a pill used to fight HIV infections.

Pfizer and its competitors like Merck & Co Inc, and Roche Holding AG have been working to create an accessible antiviral pill for COVID-19. Gilead Science Inc’s intravenous drug remdesivir is currently the single approved antiviral treatment for the coronavirus in America.

Merck and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics have also started their own late-stage trial of a drug they’ve developed called molnupiravir that aims to work similarly to PF-07321332. Molnupiravir also comes in pill-form.

Molnupiravir is being studied in non-hospitalized patients to determine whether it successfully reduces the chances of hospitalization and/or death.

Dr. Mikael Dolsten, the chief scientific officer of Pfizer’s research and development division, said that effectively fighting the virus will require accessible treatments that work together with the vaccines. He said that such drugs could “stop the virus early… potentially preventing symptomatic disease in those who have been exposed and inhibiting the onset of infection in others.”

Pfizer announces anti-viral drug studies after booster shot rollout begins

This announcement comes after Pfizer began rolling out its third ‘booster’ shot of the vaccine to select demographics. The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) set aside the recommendation of its independent panel of experts, ruling that coronavirus booster shots using the Pfizer/BioNTech inoculation can now be officially distributed to some adults in the United States.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky announced this past Friday that the health authority will advise that all those ages 18 to 64 who are at increased risk of Covid-19 because of their workplaces or institutional settings should receive the booster.

This would be in addition to the people at higher risk, such as those over 65, those living in long-term care facility and some who suffer from underlying health conditions, who already  have been cleared by the CDC to receive a third shot.

The CDC recommendation issued this past Friday includes all those made by its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) yesterday, when moved that there should be boosters for people age 65 and up; residents of long-term care facilities who had already received the Pfizer/BioNTech series at least six months ago; and those from the ages of 50 to 64 who suffer from previously existing medical conditions.


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