| 27 February 2024, Tuesday |

Britain approves Pfizer’s antiviral COVID-19 pill

The COVID-19 tablet, Pfizer’s second readily given antiviral against the coronavirus, has been licensed in the United Kingdom for individuals with mild to severe infection who are at high risk of their disease deteriorating.

Britain is trying to shore up its defenses in the face of a record number of COVID-19 cases this winter, as the virus’s Omicron strain spreads swiftly.

The drug Paxlovid, according to statistics, is most beneficial when used in the early stages of COVID-19, according to the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which recommends taking it within five days after the first symptoms.

Pfizer this month said Paxlovid showed near 90% efficacy in preventing hospitalisations and deaths in high-risk patients, and recent lab data suggests the drug retains its effectiveness against the fast spreading Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The MHRA said it is working with Pfizer, which makes one of the leading COVID-19 vaccines with German partner BioNTech, to track Paxlovid’s effectiveness against Omicron.

“We now have a further antiviral medicine for the treatment of COVID-19 that can be taken by mouth rather than administered intravenously. This means it can be administered outside a hospital setting,” MHRA chief June Raine said in a statement.

Paxlovid is made of two active substances which come as two separate pills taken twice a day together for five days. Britain has secured more than 2.75 million courses of the antiviral treatment.

The Pfizer tablets are part of a class of drugs called protease inhibitors currently used to treat HIV, hepatitis C and other viruses, which work by stopping the virus from replicating.

Rival Merck’s COVID-19 pill was approved by Britain last month, but that drug only reduced hospitalizations and deaths in its clinical trial of high-risk patients by around 30%.

  • Reuters