Covid-19: Pfizer antiviral pill 'cuts the risk of hospitalisation or death by 89%'

Pfizer are pleased with the results. Credit: PA

A new experimental pill to treat Covid-19 made by Pfizer cuts the risk of hospitalisation or death by 89%, research has shown.

The antiviral pill's impact seems to surpass the results seen from Merck & Co Inc's Molnupiravir drug which is shown to halve the likelihood of death or needing hospital treatment.

Molnupiravir was given approval to be used in the UK on Thursday, becoming the first country to do so.

Pfizer will submit the trial results to the US Food and Drug Administration in the hope of securing emergency use in the country.

It is unknown when the pills might be available to the general public. Credit: PA

Once Pfizer applies, the FDA could make a decision within weeks or months.

A total of 775 adults took part in the study.

Those taking the Pfizer drug, in addition to another antiviral pill, had an 89% decrease of hospitalisations or death after a month, in comparison to people in the placebo group.

No one died and fewer than 1% required hospital stays in the group of patients taking the drug.

In the comparison group, 7% were admitted to hospital and there were seven deaths.

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Pfizer reported few details on side effects but said rates of problems were similar between the groups at about 20%.

While pregnant women were excluded from the Merck trial due to a potential risk of birth defects, Pfizer’s drug did not have any similar restrictions.

Those participating in the programme were unvaccinated and had mild-to-moderate cases of Covid-19, while being categorised as high risk due to underlying health problems.

"We were hoping that we had something extraordinary, but it's rare that you see great drugs come through with almost 90% efficacy and 100% protection for death," said Dr Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer's chief scientific officer.

The drug is a protease inhibitor which works by blocking a key enzyme that viruses need to multiply in the body.

The pill is part of a family of anti-viral drugs, first created during the Sars outbreak that originated in Asia 18 years ago.

Shares of Pfizer spiked more than 9% before the opening bell of the stock market on Friday.