It looks like the potent therapeutic COVID treatments some expected a long time ago are finally here.
Pfizer said 0.8 percent of patients who got the drug combination within three days were hospitalized within four weeks — three out of 389 patients — compared to 7 percent of patients who got placebos, or 27 out of 385. And seven of those who got placebos died, Pfizer said. No one who got the treatment died within a month.
An independent board monitoring Pfizer’s trials recommended they be stopped because the results were so clear. The company’s findings were presented in a news release, and have not yet been published or peer-reviewed.
The pill, Paxlovid, works by binding itself to an enzyme, which prevents the coronavirus from replicating. It builds on work Pfizer scientists did on an intravenous drug to combat SARS two decades ago.
The Washington Post reports that Pfizer is already manufacturing it, and hopes to have 21 million pill packs available in the first half of 2022.
Last month, Merck announced strong results of its own antiviral pill, though the treatment was not as efficacious as the Pfizer drug. Other therapeutic treatments, including remdesivir and monoclonal antibodies, are more complicated to administer than simple pills.
After news of Pfizer’s trials came out, former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who has been a leading voice on the pandemic, said on CNBC that “the bottom line is the end of the pandemic, at least as it relates to the United States, is in sight right now.”