Pfizer Inc (NYSE: PFE) reported data for its oral COVID-19 antiviral on Friday that showed the pill to be 89% effective in reducing hospitalisation and death.
The news comes a day after the United Kingdom authorised Merck’s oral drug reported last month to be 50% effective on the same measure. Pfizer is up more than 10% in the stock market this morning; Merck is down the same in premarket trading.
Dr Gottlieb’s remarks on CNBC’s ‘Squawk Box’
Pfizer is now set to seek FDA approval for its oral COVID pill before thanksgiving. According to Dr Scott Gottlieb, who also sits on Pfizer’s board, the data is a massive step towards the end of the pandemic. On CNBC’s “Squawk Box”, he said:
The end of the pandemic, at least in the U.S., is in sight given all the tools we now have to combat this disease. We still have to get through the delta wave, but over the next two months, Pfizer’s pill and other recent innovations really mark the end of the pandemic in the U.S.
The news that Jim Cramer called the “pandemic’s atomic bomb” saw U.S. stocks soar on Friday with the three major Wall Street indices up more than 0.5% each.
Oral COVID antiviral is not an alternative for vaccination
Dr Gottlieb reiterated that the oral drug should not be seen as an alternative for vaccination and is meant only for breakthrough infections and for those who “couldn’t get vaccinated for whatever reasons”.
Pfizer reported 89% efficacy for its oral COVID pill when taken within three days after the onset of symptoms. In comparison, Merck’s data pertained to taking the antiviral within five days, at which point Pfizer says its drug is 76% effective – still higher than Merck’s.
The biochemistry of Pfizer’s pill is not the same as Merck’s; the former is a Protease inhibitor versus the latter that’s a Polymerase inhibitor. Its safety profile is also different from Merck that had concerns around the mutagenicity of the COVID pill. Such a concern, however, was not found in Pfizer’s drug.
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