Joe Biden marks 200m Covid vaccine shots delivered

Pfizer CEO says oral Covid drug could be ready by end of year

At home treatment of Covid-19 could be a ‘game changer’ says Albert Bourla

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Tuesday 27 April 2021 22:23

Albert Bourla, CEO of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, says that an oral drug for Covid-19 could be ready by the end of the year.

Speaking to CNBC’s Squawk Box on Tuesday, he said the company has antiviral treatments in development and was upbeat about the prospects for their progress.

“If all goes well, and we implement the same speed that we are, and if regulators do the same, and they are, I hope that by the end of the year,” said Mr Bourla.

Pfizer is working on an oral antiviral and an injectable antiviral. This class of drugs, known as protease inhibitors, is widely used in the treatment of HIV/Aids and hepatitis C.

They work by preventing the replication of proteins necessary for the production of infectious viral particles, which should also make them effective against variants of the virus that have already emerged, as well as future mutations.

Early-stage trials of the oral drug began in March, and Mr Bourla says that there is particular attention being paid to that treatment as, unlike injectables, a patient would not need to be in a hospital environment.

“You could get it at home, and that could be a game-changer,” he said, adding that there should be more news in the summer.

At present, the only antiviral approved in the US to treat Covid-19 is remdesivir, manufactured by Gilead Sciences.

Emergency use of the drug was granted by the US Food and Drug Administration in May 2020, with full approval following in October.

Remdesivir, originally developed to treat ebola, is given to a patient by an intravenous drip, and so must be administered in a hospital setting.

It was used to treat Donald Trump when he was hospitalised with Covid in October 2020, but a subsequent randomised trial by the World Health Organisation found that it has little or no effect on severe cases. Other studies show it shortens recovery time from the virus.

Pfizer manufactures one of the three Covid-19 vaccines currently available in the US. It was developed in conjunction with Germany’s BioNTech.

Emergency authorisation for use was granted by the FDA in December, and since then 122.7 million doses have been administered.

Approximately 48.5 million Americans have now been fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine, a two-dose solution with a three-week gap between shots. Just under 26 million people have received one dose to date.

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