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Pfizer Announces Antiviral Pill Claiming it Cuts Risk of Severe COVID-19 by 89%

Published: November 5, 2021
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 03: In this photo illustration, a medical syringe and vials of the Pfizer US pharmaceutical corporation and BioNTech German biotechnology 2021 company logos are seen on October 03, 2021 in New York City. Pfizer and BioNTech announced its conclude phase 3 study of COVID-19 vaccine candidate with 95% primary efficacy analysis, as the media reported on 18 November 2020. (Photo Illustration by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Pfizer/BioNTech)

On Nov. 5, Pfizer announced that the company has developed an antiviral pill that it claims reduces the risk of hospitalization and death due to COVID-19 infection by 89 percent among at-risk people, according to a press release.

The initial trial of the experimental drug, named PAXLOVID™, found that there were no deaths among people at high risk of progressing to severe illness if they received the drug within three days of seeing symptoms. A placebo group reported seven deaths. 

Pfizer stated in their press release that, “In the overall study population through Day 28, no deaths were reported in patients who received PAXLOVID™ as compared to 10 (1.6%) deaths in patients who received [a] placebo.”

Pfizer plans to seek Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “as soon as possible.” Data concerning the initial study has not been published or peer reviewed.

“Today’s news is a real game-changer in the global efforts to halt the devastation of this pandemic. These data suggest that our oral antiviral candidate, if approved or authorized 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 hospitalizations,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement. 

If approved, PAXLOVID™, would be the first oral antiviral of its kind with the potential to be prescribed as an at-home treatment to help reduce the severity of illness, hospitalizations and death. 

According to the press release, “It has demonstrated potent antiviral in vitro activity against circulating variants of concern, as well as other known coronaviruses, suggesting its potential as a therapeutic for multiple types of coronavirus infections.” 

The drug is a direct competitor to Merck’s COVID-19 antiviral pill, which recently received conditional authorization for use in Britain. Merck claims its treatment cuts the risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19 in half. Merck applied to the FDA last month for emergency use of its treatment.