Pfizer says Covid-19 pill works for Omicron

AmericaPharmaceutical company Pfizer on January 18 said that the Covid-19 treatment pill Paxlovid was effective against the Omicron strain.

According to Pfizer, three laboratory studies show that the main ingredient in its antiviral drug is nirmatrelvir, an inhibitor that prevents the virus from replicating, is effective against the Omicron variant.

The scientists tested nirmatrelvir against an enzyme called protease that the virus uses to replicate itself. As a result, nirmatrelvir blocked the protease target in Omicron, with a level of effectiveness comparable to that of the original virus.

Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer’s Chief Scientific Officer, said: “New data suggest that oral Covid-19 drugs could be an important and effective tool in the fight against this devastating virus, especially in worrisome strains like Omicron with high transmissibility”.

In the second study, Paxlovid was as resistant to Omicrons as Beta and Delta. The third study was conducted by scientists at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York City. They looked at the effectiveness of nirmatrelvir on Omicron and other strains. The results are similar to the first work.

Pfizer’s Paxlovid tablets are manufactured in Ascoli, Italy, November 2021. Photo: Reuters

According to the pharmaceutical company, this is an encouraging signal that Paxlovid will be an important tool in the treatment of Covid-19 when the new strain spreads. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the drug for use in people at high risk of nCoV infection and severe disease. Health authorities, doctors and patients say the drug is a valuable new weapon in the fight against the virus. Unlike previous therapies, Paxlovid can be used at home to avoid hospitalization.

The arrival of Omicron in late 2021 has scientists questioning whether Paxlovid and other drugs are still effective. Because of changes in viral spike protein, some antibody drugs are less effective. Many researchers are skeptical about Paxlovid and another oral drug, Merck’s molnupiravir. The three studies Pfizer published partially allayed these concerns.

The first batch of Paxlovid has been distributed to pharmacies in the US, but supplies are limited. Pfizer will continue to ship the drug through June, delivering at least half of the 20 treatments the government has ordered.

Pfizer is expanding production, but the final step from raw materials to finished products can take nine months. CEO Albert Bourla said the company expects to produce about 7 million treatments globally this quarter, with an estimated 120 million sessions by the end of this year.

Thuc Linh (Follow WSJ)


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