Global pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is reporting early success with initial trials of a new drug that stops patients with Covid-19 who are gravely ill from getting worse.
In addition, the anti-viral drug, Paxlovid, is a pill administered twice a day for five days to positive patients in the early stages of the virus.
In a trial of more than 1200 patients considered to be ‘high risk’, no one administered with a real dose died, although there were 10 deaths among those who took the placebo.
Based on those results last month, Pfizer is reporting “Paxlovid” reduces the risk of hospitalisation by 89 per cent.
"This is a big deal. It's very exciting to see this coming through, both because of the 89 per cent and because of the big efficacy in this,” said Jessica Justman, an infectious diseases specialist at Columbia School of Public Health.
“It's also a big deal because these are pills that are easy to take. It's five days of taking pills twice a day. So this means people can have these pills ready to go in their medicine cabinets.”
Confidence in the results has seen Pfizer halt recruitment for trial patients and apply to the Federal Drug Administration for emergency use as soon as possible.
The new drugs arrival comes less than a month after another huge pharmaceutical supplier, Merck, introduced its anti-viral, Molnumpravir, to the international marketplace. Merck’s drug reportedly reduces the risks of hospitalisation and/or death by 50 per cent.
The Ministry of Health was quick to order 60,000 doses of Molnumpravir and experts predict there will high level interest in the new Pfizer drug too.
“If you can get it early enough you might save a life,” says Graham Le Gros from the Mallaghan Institute.
Le Gros says getting supplies here by next winter would be ideal but stresses getting the population vaccinated remains the top priority.