Pfizer’s COVID pill will cut the risk of hospital admission and virus deaths.  

The science editor of the Times, Tom Whipple published a review of this.  

He suggests that the new antiviral pill will slash the risk of hospital admission and death from COVID in the most vulnerable by about 90%, findings that promise to accelerate the world’s return to normality.  

The United Kingdom has already ordered 250,000 doses of Pfizer’s antiviral, in the expectation that it will perform well in trials. 

The results from the Pfizer pill known as Paxlovid, are even better than most analysts expected, but about 1% of those taking it within five days of diagnosis ended up in hospital compared with 7% of those who did not.  

Together with the antiviral by the Ridgeback Biotherapeutics at Merck, which the regulator the MHRA licensed last week, there is hope that the elderly and immunocompromised could receive it as treatment to take home after being diagnosed, keeping them out of hospital. 

The first doses of Paxlovid should start to arrive in the United Kingdom towards the end of winter. 

The drug is a protease inhibitor, meaning it slows enzymes used by the Coronavirus to replicate.  This is a different mechanism from the pill being developed by Merck, which induces mutations in the virus’ genetic code each time it copies itself.  Because the two work differently, it is likely that they will be effective in combination.  This approach will also prevent the virus developing resistance.  

Trials showed that when those at risk of severe COVID took the drug within three days of the onset of symptoms and then a separate group within five days, little difference between the two groups; 70/1000 of those give them the placebo ended up in hospital within 28 days compared with 9/1000 of those given a course of the drug.  There were no deaths in the Paxlovid group and 10 who did not receive it.  

The London General Practice, the leading London doctors’ clinic in Harley Street looks forward to reviewing the trial data and being able to prescribe these medications for patients with COVID-19 disease.

Dr Paul Ettlinger

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