Pfizer’s experimental oral antiviral pill that has the potential to treat the first signs of SARS-CoV-2 might be available by the end of this year, according to Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla.
In a virtual interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Tuesday, Bourla shared that the oral medication or the PF-07321332 that is currently being developed by the pharma giant may be a “game-changer” because of its possible advantages. One of its biggest advantages is that this drug could be prescribed without requiring that patients are hospitalized or in critical care.
“We have designed PF-07321332 as a potential oral therapy that could be prescribed at the first sign of infection, without requiring that patients are hospitalized or in critical care,” Mikael Dolsten, MD, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer and President, Worldwide Research, Development and Medical of Pfizer stated in an earlier announcement made in March.
Given the way that SARS-CoV-2 is mutating and the continued global impact of COVID-19, it appears likely that it will be critical to have access to therapeutic options both now and beyond the pandemic.
What are Protease Inhibitors?
The oral medication Pfizer is currently developing is classified as a “protease inhibitor,” which binds to a viral enzyme and prevents the virus’s ability to replicate in the cell.
Protease inhibitors have been effective at treating other viral pathogens such as HIV and hepatitis C virus, both alone and in combination with other antivirals.
Protease Inhibitors vs. New Variants
Bourla also explained its difference from the vaccines in terms of mechanism of action. The protease inhibitor is not acting on the spike protein wherein the mutations are happening.
“This one doesn’t work there so that allows us to believe that will be way more effective against the multiple variants. So, all good news. We are now progressing the studies and we will have more news around summer,” he added.
The study is currently in its first phase and is estimated to finish in late May, according to ClinicalTrials.gov.
When asked for a more specific and reasonable time frame for the pill’s rollout, Bourla said that if clinical trials go well and things are implemented and approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the drug may be ready to be distributed in the United States by the end of the year.
Aside from the oral drug, the company is also working on an injectable protease inhibitor that opens another potential treatment option for hospitalized patients.
Pfizer and German drugmaker BioNTech has developed the mRNA vaccine, which was the first vaccine against coronavirus to receive emergency use authorization (EAU) from the World Health Organization. The vaccine was approved for EAU here in the Philippines in January. 195,000 initial doses of the vaccine will possibly be delivered in the country by the end of April, followed by more quantities in the succeeding months, as per procurement updates of COVID-19 Vaccine Czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr.