Story at a glance

  • Pfizer said Tuesday the phase one trial of a pill to treat COVID-19 is underway in the U.S.
  • Preclinical studies showed the oral antiviral “demonstrated potent in vitro anti-viral activity against SARS-CoV-2, as well as activity against other coronaviruses.”
  • Pfizer is also studying an intravenous antiviral therapy to treat COVID-19 that is being used in a clinical trial involving hospitalized patients.

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has kicked off early stage clinical trials of an experimental oral antiviral drug to treat COVID-19. 

The company announced on Tuesday the phase one trial of the drug, PF-07321332, is currently taking place in the U.S. 


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The treatment is a potent protease inhibitor, the same kind of technology used to treat HIV and hepatitis C. Protease inhibitors bind to a viral enzyme and prevent the virus from replicating in the cell.

Pfizer said preclinical studies showed the oral antiviral “demonstrated potent in vitro anti-viral activity against SARS-CoV-2, as well as activity against other coronaviruses.” That means the treatment could be useful against future coronavirus threats. 

“Tackling the COVID-19 pandemic requires both prevention via vaccine and targeted treatment for those who contract the virus. 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,” Mikeal Dolsten, Pfizer chief scientific officer, said in a statement

Dolsten said the oral therapy could be prescribed to a patient at the first sign of infection, without requiring they be hospitalized or in critical care. 

Pfizer is also studying an intravenous antiviral therapy to treat COVID-19 that is being used in a clinical trial involving hospitalized patients.  

“Together, the two have the potential to create an end to end treatment paradigm that complements vaccination,” Dolsten said. 

Pfizer, in collaboration with German company BioNTech, was the first pharmaceutical company to receive emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Currently, the only FDA-approved antiviral treatment for COVID-19 is Gilead’s Remdesivir. 

Pfizer says it will share pre-clinical data on its experimental pill on April 6.


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Published on Mar 23, 2021