A ‘really important weapon’ as infections surge

Pfizer’s new anti-COVID-19 pill, which fights the disease in people that get infected, could prove to be a “really important weapon” and potential game changer in the battle against the virus, infectious disease experts told the Herald.

Pfizer presented data to federal regulators Tuesday, saying its COVID-19 oral antiviral pill shows promising results fighting coronavirus among infected people and even appears to work on the new omicron variant.

According to the research, the treatment was very effective for high-risk adults who got infected and took the pill within three days of symptom onset. The pharma giant announced that the pill slashed the risk of hospitalization or death for this population by 89%.

Also, recent laboratory data suggests that the oral antiviral candidate called “Paxlovid” will be effective against current variants of concern, including the new highly contagious omicron variant.

These results from the Phase 2/3 studies of Pfizer’s COVID-19 oral antiviral are “pretty impressive,” and the pill will be key in the battle against the virus, said Davidson Hamer, a Boston University specialist in infectious diseases.

“It’s going to be a really important weapon, another important tool in our tool belt,” Hamer said. “This gives you time to get tested after developing symptoms, and then access treatment and get a benefit from it.”

He noted that vaccine breakthrough infections are rising and that vaccines appear to offer less defense against the new omicron variant. Vaccines are doing a good job at preventing severe disease and hospitalization for the vast majority of people.

“This treatment should help further reduce the burden on health facilities,” Hamer said. “It should be a great option to offer those who are high risk to get better faster and stay out of the hospital.”

He stressed, however, that people need to understand that this pill treatment is not a reason to avoid vaccination and boosters.

Hamer also warned that “resistance is not far around the corner” from any new antiviral drug.

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