Good news: The race to find effective treatments for COVID-19 may have reached a turning point. Early today Pfizer confirmed that its new pill prevents severe illness in almost 90 percent of COVID patients. Known as Paxlovid, the pill could eventually be offered to anyone who tests positive for COVID, with the aim of vastly reducing the number of COVID hospitalizations and deaths.
For Pfizer’s highly anticipated study on Paxlovid and its effectiveness, researchers recruited 2,246 unvaccinated volunteers who were at greater risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19. A total of 1,379 participants came down with the virus, and within three to five days of developing symptoms, received either the COVID pill or a placebo. (A total of 679 participants received the drug, while 682 received the placebo.)
The Data on the COVID Pill
Study participants who took the COVID pill within three days of developing symptoms had an 89 percent lower risk of hospitalization and death, and patients who took it within five days reduced their risk by 88 percent.
Of those subjects who developed COVID-19 and received a placebo, 6.5 percent were hospitalized and died. By contrast, only 0.7 percent of patients who received Paxlovid were hospitalized within 28 days of entering the trial, and none of them died.
That isn’t the only proof that the pill is a success. Pfizer is conducting another trial focused on people who have a lower risk of severe disease. That study includes vaccinated volunteers with a risk factor that increases the chance of severe illness, and unvaccinated volunteers with no risk factors. The preliminary data from that study showed that Paxlovid reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by 70 percent.
What’s more, Pfizer said the COVID pill may also be effective against the Omicron variant. More research is needed to confirm, but initial data is promising.
How does Paxlovid work?
Paxlovid is a protease inhibitor. The COVID-19 virus needs protease to make copies of itself and multiply, so by inhibiting this enzyme, Paxlovid reduces an infected person’s viral load, giving their immune system time to fight off the virus.
If the FDA approves or authorizes the treatment, Paxlovid would be the first oral antiviral drug of its kind, according to Pfizer. Doctors would be able to prescribe it as an at-home treatment that may not only reduce the severity of the disease, but also lessen an infected person’s chance of spreading the virus to others.
Access to this exciting new weapon in the fight against COVID may be just around the corner, and that’s news to feel good about!