Sure, Plaquenil and ivermectin are out there, safe and cheap and pretty effective if given at the start of COVID infection. That hasn’t kept the boys and girls at Pharma from cooking up something maybe better. Behold PAXLOVID™ (PF-07321332; ritonavir), a swallowed drug that inhibits a SARS-CoV-2-3CL protease (protein breaking down enzyme) that Mr. Corona uses to bust up cells before it starts remaking its own RNA. Supposedly, it was found to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death by 89% compared to placebo in non-hospitalized high-risk adults with COVID-19 (1). In the overall study population through Day 28, no deaths were reported in patients who received PAXLOVID™ as compared to 10 deaths in patients who received placebo. Close to 20% of the patients in the trial reported adverse effects, but so did a similar number who had received a placebo. Pfizer reassures us that “In preclinical studies, PF-07321332 did not demonstrate evidence of mutagenic DNA interactions.”
Pfizer didn’t just cook this up special for COVID. It’s been on their shelf for years, with many trials in HIV.
Merck has molnupiravir, a drug with a similar mechanism of action (2), which may actually have beat Pfizer to this particular finish line. Neither has FDA approval, but fast track is of course being sought.
No word if either of the fancy new drugs will undergo head-to-head trials against hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin. As we wait for the FDA to act, patients should be reassured that such drugs are available, provided an open minded doctor is also available.
It’s going to be pricey, but Pfizer will offer our investigational oral antiviral therapy through a tiered pricing approach based on the income level of each country to promote equity of access across the globe. Good Pfizer is serving equity. What is it doing about diversity and inclusion?
1. NBC News. Pfizer’s Covid antiviral pill may cut severe illness by 89 percent. https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/pfizers-covid-antiviral-pill-may-cut-severe-illness-89-percent-rcna4593