Pfizer launches later-stage study of pill to treat COVID-19

Pfizer on Wednesday announced that it had initiated a later-stage clinical trial for a pill that could potentially treat COVID-19.

If proven to be safe and effective, the drug could fill an unmet need for a widespread, easier-to-use treatment, as opposed to an infusion like remdesivir, another treatment. 

Pfizer is beginning a trial that will enroll 1,140 participants, the company said. 

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The drug could eventually be used in a "broad" population of patients, Pfizer said, namely people who have symptomatic cases of COVID-19 and are not hospitalized or at risk of severe illness.

A separate trial began in July for people who are at risk of severe illness.

“Success against #COVID19 will likely require both vaccines & treatments,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla tweeted on Wednesday. “We’re pleased to share we’ve started a Phase 2/3 study of our oral antiviral candidate—specifically designed to combat SARS-CoV-2—in non-hospitalized, low-risk adults.”

Other drugmakers, including Roche and Merck, have also been studying treatments in this area.

“If successful, [the drug] has the potential to address a significant unmet medical need, providing patients with a novel oral therapy that could be prescribed at the first sign of infection, without requiring hospitalization,” Pfizer said in a news release.

The Food and Drug Administration last week gave full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, making it the first of the vaccines used in the U.S. to move beyond the emergency authorization stage.