Pfizer antiviral pill to treat COVID could be available ‘early in 2022’ if approved

An antiviral pill to treat COVID-19 should – subject to regulatory approval – be available early next year, the UK boss of Pfizer has told Sky News.

The US drugs giant announced last week that the pill had been shown to cut the risk of hospitalisation or death from the virus by 89% and Britain has already ordered 250,000 courses of the treatment.

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Image: Pills from Merck were approved last week. Pic: AP

Ben Osborn, country manager for Pfizer UK, told Sky’s Ian King Live that following the interim trial results, the company was “working at real pace with regulators around the world and in particular in the UK here with the MHRA [Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency]”.

“We expect to be filing in the near future – in the coming weeks – and then I would hope, subject to their approval, we may see this medicine being available very early in 2022,” he said.


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Mr Osborn said the company had already been working “at scale” for some time at manufacturing the treatment, as it had previously done with its vaccine “so that we’ll make sure we’re ready for any forthcoming regulatory approval”.

Interim trial results for the drug published last week came from a study of 775 adults.

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Patients taking the treatment, along with another antiviral, had an 89% reduction in their combined rate of hospital admission or death after a month, compared with patients taking a placebo.

Fewer than 1% of patients taking the drug needed to be admitted to hospital and no one died.

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Participants were unvaccinated and had mild-to-moderate COVID-19, and were considered high risk due to health problems, including obesity, diabetes or heart disease.

It comes after the UK became the first country to approve another antiviral pill, developed by Merck – of which the UK has ordered 480,000 doses.

Image: Pfizer announced trial results last week

The two antivirals are expected to be given to those most at risk from the virus, helping to reduce the severity of symptoms and ease pressure on the NHS.

Pfizer previously developed a vaccine for COVID-19 with Germany’s BioNTech.

It said last week that it expected 2021 sales of the jab to reach $36bn (£26.5bn) and forecast another $29bn (£21.4bn) from the drug in 2022.