Biden says he’s ‘encouraged by the promising data’ on Pfizer’s Covid-19 antiviral pill
Evan Vucci/AP

Biden says he’s ‘encouraged by the promising data’ on Pfizer’s Covid-19 antiviral pill

President Joe Biden on Tuesday praised Pfizer’s report that its experimental treatment for Covid-19 cut the risk of hospitalization or death by 89% if given to high-risk adults within a few days of their first symptoms.

“I am encouraged by the promising data released by Pfizer today, showing that its antiviral pill is effective at reducing the risk of severe illness in people infected with Covid-19. This news provides another potentially powerful tool in our fight against the virus, including the Omicron variant,” the President said in a statement, referring to the newly identified coronavirus strain.

Biden noted in his statement that his administration “has already placed an order for enough of these pills to treat 10 million Americans,” but stressed that getting vaccinated against the virus and receiving a booster shot “remain the most important tools we have to save lives.”

“But if this treatment is indeed authorized — and once the pills are widely available — it will mark a significant step forward in our path out of the pandemic,” he said.

Pfizer said Tuesday that it has shared the latest data on the pills, called Paxlovid, with the US Food and Drug Administration as part of its application for emergency use authorization. “Full study data are expected to be released later this month and submitted to a peer-reviewed publication,” the company said in a statement. No date has been set by the FDA advisory committee expected to weigh in on the treatment.

Pfizer hopes it can eventually offer the pills for people to take at home before they get sick enough to go to the hospital. Paxlovid combines a new antiviral drug named nirmatrelvir and an older one called ritonavir.

Paxlovid is not the only antiviral pill in the pipeline for FDA authorization. Merck’s drug molnupiravir was narrowly recommended by FDA’s advisers in a 13-10 vote at the end of November after data showed it cut the risk of hospitalization or death by 30% among high-risk adults. The FDA has not announced whether it will authorize the treatment.

Remdesivir, sold under the brand name Veklury, is the only antiviral approved by the FDA for treatment of Covid-19. It’s given intravenously, not as a pill that can be taken at home.

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