Pfizer has announced that they are one step closer to releasing a coronavirus-killing wonder drug.
The simple pill is meant to be taken at home during the early stages of COVID-19 infection and may represent another significant step forward in the fight against the virus. We have seen a range of treatments for the virus emerge in recent months, including the Oxford-AstraZena vaccine, Moderna vaccine and innovations from India.
While vaccinations are highly efficient at reducing the risk of death or serious illness from contracting the virus, and medical devices such as ventilators can assist save lives in hospitalized patients, there is a need for effective oral treatment as well.
There are currently a few pills being developed that are aimed at treating Covid, but Pfizer’s is the first one to reach advanced human trials.
The drugmaker plans to trail the drug on 1,140 adults infected with the virus who are not considered to be high risk and are unlikely to suffer from serious illness or death if they catch COVID-19.
The pill, which is technically called PF-07321332, is in a category of antiviral agents called protease inhibitors.
Proteases are enzymes that are used for viral replication and protease inhibitors have been developed in the past to treat deadly diseases like and hepatitis C and HIV/AIDs.
Pfizer said in a statement: “Protease inhibitors, like PF-07321332, are designed to block the activity of the main protease enzyme that the coronavirus needs to replicate.
“Co-administration with a low dose of ritonavir is expected to help slow the metabolism, or breakdown, of PF-07321332 in order for it to remain in the body for longer periods of time at higher concentrations, thereby working continuously to help combat the virus.
“Ritonavir has previously been used in combination with other antivirals to similarly inhibit metabolism.”
Martin J. Blaser, director of the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine at Rutgers University, also hailed the breakthrough.
He said: “The hope is that the Pfizer drug and ritonavir together will sufficiently inhibit the SARS-CoV-2 protease to slow down the virus enough that [the] host’s immune defences will overcome and eliminate it.”
The trial will be what’s known as a double-blind trial.
This is where patients will either get the PF-07321332/ritonavir combination or be given a placebo every 12 hours, for a period of five days.
The first participants have already been dosed in a large Phase 2/3 trial testing of the treatment, which is designed to alleviate the symptoms of the virus.
The first trial started in July, and the second trial started at the end of August.
The first trial, which is focusing on the prevention of hospitalisation and death, differs from the second in that the second only looks at the effect it has on individuals who are high risk.
Pfizer is expecting their first results by the end of this year.
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