Pfizer Announces COVID Antiviral Pill Success Rate

By Jason Hall

November 5, 2021

Photo: Getty Images

Pfizer announced its experimental COVID-19 pill showed successful results in preventing people from being hospitalized or dying from the virus during clinical trials.

The pharmaceutical company said the antiviral pill -- which is combined with a low dose of the HIV drug 'ritonavir' -- reduced hospitalizations and deaths related to the coronvavirus among high-risk patients by up to 89%, according to a news release obtained by NBC News.

Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla referred to the pill as a potential "game-changer" in the statement, which confirmed the company has ceased studies early with the intention that the general public might benefit from the drug.

“These data suggest that our oral antiviral candidate, if approved 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," Bourla said via NBC News.

Pfizer did not release the full data from the clinical trial, rather just information within the press release, according to NBC News.

Dr. John Sanders, chief of infectious diseases at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist in North Carolina, said outside experts would need to provide a different perspective to scrutinize results, but still referred to the preliminary information as "remarkable" when discussing the drug with NBC News via email.

"The availability of an oral antiviral that can reduce the risk of hospitalization and death in high risk patients by 89 percent will have a major impact on how we treat Covid-19," Sanders wrote.

Pfizer said it intends to request authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for the antiviral pill "as soon as possible."

The news comes one day after the United Kingdom approved use of an antiviral medication developed by Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Merck, which will be marketed under the name 'Lagevrio' in the U.K. and prescribed to patients experiencing mild to moderate cases of COVID-19, as well as those with at least one risk factor for developing more severe cases.

FDA advisors are scheduled to meet and discuss emergency authorization of the Merck pill on November 30.

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