Healthcare

Pfizer CEO has ‘high level of confidence’ COVID-19 pill will be effective against omicron

Greg Nash

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said Monday he has “a very high level of confidence” that his company’s COVID-19 treatment pills are effective against the omicron variant.

Speaking to CNBC’s “Squawk Box” host Meg Tirrell, Bourla said Pfizer could commit to delivering 80 million courses of Paxlovid, the COVID-19 treatment for which the company requested emergency use authorization earlier this month.

“We are right now — clearly can commit 80 million doses. It is thanks to — you have seen our manufacturing machine really at work and they just can make it and I’m very, very pleased that we are in this situation,” said Bourla.

The CEO noted that there are many unknowns about the omicron variant and more data should become available in the coming weeks. However, Bourla said Paxlovid was designed in anticipation of future possible mutations.

“So that gives me very, very high level of confidence that the treatment will not be effected, our oral treatment will not be effected by this virus. When it comes to the vaccine, remains to be seen. I don’t think that the result will be the vaccines don’t protect,” said Bourla, adding a new vaccine may be needed if current vaccines are shown to be significantly less protective against omicron.

When requesting authorization for its oral COVID-19 treatment from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Pfizer said it reduced the risk of hospitalization and deaths by 89 percent. The treatment involves taking three pills twice daily for five days. It is recommended that patients start a course of Paxlovid within five to 10 days of symptoms occurring.

The treatment works by using a combination of an antiviral drug developed by Pfizer along with the HIV treatment drug ritonavir to stop SARS-CoV-2 from replicating. Merck has also requested authorization for its COVID-19 treatment drug molnupiravir, developed in partnership with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.

On Sunday, former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who sits on Pfizer’s board of directors, said vaccine developers have “a pretty good degree of confidence” that people who have received booster doses on top of their initial COVID-19 vaccinations are protected against omicron.

“If you talk to people in vaccine circles, people who are working on a vaccine, they have a pretty good degree of confidence that a boosted vaccine, so three full doses of vaccine, is going to be fairly protective against this new variant,” he said.

Tags Albert Bourla COVID-19 treatment COVID-19 vaccination in the United States Pfizer–BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine

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