Pfizer's antiviral Covid pill shows effectiveness against the Omicron

Pfizer’s antiviral Covid pill shows effectiveness against the Omicron variant in three separate lab tests

  • Pfizer’s Paxlovid has showed in three lab tests that it is just as effective against the Omicron variant as it is other virus strains
  • The drug has been lauded for its effectiveness against Covid and ease of use as a pill a person can take at home
  • Drug is to be taken after a person tests positive for Covid and can prevent a person’s condition from deteriorating  
  • Pfizer has run into manufacturing issues that could hinder its availability worldwide though, with only 30 million doses expected by the end of 2022 

Pfizer’s new oral Covid treatment showed effectiveness against the Omicron variant in lab tests in what could be a boon to America’s fight against Covid.

The New York City based company revealed data Tuesday showing that it’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized pill to fight Covid, Paxlovid, showed promise in a laboratory environment in three tests.

Nirmatrelvir, the drug’s active ingredient, showed effectiveness is neutralizing the virus in the trials that are still pending peer review.

The highly mutated Omicron variant has displayed the ability to bypass vaccines and Covid treatments since it first emerged last year. Pharmaceutical companies have been working to tweak vaccines and treatments to be effective against the new mutant strain.

Paxlovid (pictured), developed by New York City-based Pfizer, was successful at preventing replication of the Omicron variant in three lab tests, the company announced

The drug has been lauded as the new gold standard Covid treatment due to its effectiveness and ease of administration. In trials, it showed it was 90% effective at preventing hospitalization or death from the virus (file photo)

‘We specifically designed PAXLOVID to retain its activity across coronaviruses, as well as current variants of concern with predominantly spike protein mutations,’ Dr Michael Dolsten, Pfizer’s chief science officer, said in a statement.

He added that the antiviral pill showed the ability to cut the risk of hospitalization or death from the virus by 90 percent if taken early in infection.

‘These data suggest that our oral COVID-19 therapy can be an important and effective tool in our continued battle against this devastating virus and current variants of concern, including the highly transmissible Omicron,’ Dolsten said.

‘We will continue to monitor the treatment’s activity in real-world settings and believe that these in vitro findings will continue to be validated.’ 

The drug is administered in three pill doses, taken twice a day for five days. A high-risk person is supposed to take it upon finding out they contracted the virus in order to prevent their condition from deteriorating.

Paxlovid, along with Merck’s molnupiravir, have been lauded by health experts for their ease of access when compared to other effective medicines that can keep Covid patients out of the ICU.

A doctor can prescribe an infected person the drug, and they can easily take it at home with little effort or resources expended.

Other treatments, like monoclonal antibodies, require the use of a hospital bed, health care staff and equipment like machines and tubing in order to administer. The drugs are also in short supply and can be very costly.

The research revealed by Pfizer on Tuesday finds that Nirmatrelvir can effectively prevent the virus replicating once it finds a host and stop it from further infecting cells.

Its effectiveness against Omicron is the same as its efficacy against previous strains like the Beta and Delta variants.

‘Omicron is proving itself to be a formidable and highly transmissible variant of an already detrimental virus,’ said Dr Kris White, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Microbiology at Icahn Mount Sinai, which performed one of the tests. 

‘We are heartened to see early data showing that this oral treatment is maintaining robust in vitro antiviral activity against it, as well as other variants of concern.’ 

While Paxlovid has been deemed the gold standard of post-infection Covid treatments due to its ease of use and efficacy, manufacturing issues could prevent it from being adopted as a primary treatment worldwide.

In December, Pfizer estimated that it would only have 30 million courses of the drug available for use worldwide by the end of 2020, not anywhere near the hoped for supply in the hundreds of millions.

The company hopes to boost production in France this year, after investing nearly $600 million into the country.

Merck, on the other hand, has established contracts with generic manufacturers around the world and partnered with a United Nations health group to mass produce the drug at little cost.

Like it did with its vaccine, Pfizer opted not to go the generic route with Paxlovid. 

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