COVID-19: Pfizer begins Phase 1 clinical trial of oral pill

New York: US pharmaceutical company Pfizer has begun Phase 1 clinical trial of an oral pill for the virus that causes Covid-19. The pill can be taken as soon as a patient develops symptoms.

If the trail is successful, this could be the first early intervention for Covid of its kind that could prevent the worsening of symptoms, western media reports said.

Pfizer is conducting the trial in the US for now and says that it has so far “demonstrated potent in-vitro antiviral activity” against the virus that causes Covid-19, “as well as activity against other coronaviruses, suggesting potential for use in the treatment of Covid-19 as well as potential use to address future coronavirus threats”.

Pfizer chief scientific officer Mikael Dolsten was quoted by media as saying: “Together, the two [oral and intravenous antivirals] have the potential to create an end to end treatment paradigm that complements vaccination.”

In a statement, Dolsten said: “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.”

The oral pill belongs to a class of drugs known as protease inhibitors which, according to Pfizer, “bind to a viral enzyme (called a protease), preventing the virus from replicating in the cell.”

Pfizer will share details of the study and pre-clinical data on April 6 during an American Chemical Society meeting, according to US media reports.

Dolsten, in an interview with Bloomberg, said there had been no unexpected problems seen in the phase one study so far, and that it could generate results within weeks. Pfizer, besides the antiviral pill, is also testing another medicine that is administered intravenously to hospitalised Covid-19 patients.

CNBC has reported that because the drug is an oral one, it could be used “outside of hospitals for people who are newly infected with the virus.” Experts are hoping that this keeps the disease from progressing and keeps people out of hospitals.

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