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Coronavirus Vaccines

Coronavirus US: does the pill reduce the risk of hospitalization according to Pfizer?

Pfizer says its new covid-19 pill massively cuts the risk of hospitalizations and death - just how effective is it?

A 3D printed Pfizer logo is placed near medicines from the same manufacturer in this illustration taken September 29, 2021.
Dado RuvicReuters

Pfizer submitted clinical trials for a new medication that, if the trials are correct, expects to prevent 89 percent of hospitalizations from covid-19. While not another vaccine, the pill should provide another layer of protection from the disease when used in conjunction with a common HIV pill.

“I think this medicine will change the way things are happening right now that will save millions and millions of lives, it has the potential to do it,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” He said the company has “the capacity right now of 500 million pills,” which he said translates to 50 million treatments.

“The very high efficacy comes even to us as a surprise, exceeds our most visionary expectations we had for that.”

The trial included participants from North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia, with 45% of patients located in the United States. Bourla told CNBC the company plans to submit its data to the Food and Drug Administration before Thanksgiving.

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How well does the pill work?

Overall, more than 1,200 people participated in the trial and of those who received the drug, no deaths were reported. The trial results also show that the medication is effective even when taken as many as five days after symptoms appear. It isn't a vaccine, and isn't to be used as such. It was tested alongside an HIV pill, which was found to give PF-07321332, the covid-19 pill, a longer lasting effect.

Not everyone who gets vaccinated will be protected completely from the virus. Some people will still require hospitalization and some will die, as vaccines are never 100 percent effective. What is important to remember, is that the data shows that even in cases where a vaccinated person contracts the virus, they are much less likely to suffer from a severe or fatal infection. The use of this pill, if it is approved, would reduce this risk even lower, and keep more people safe.

It is not the only covid-19 pill that has submitted trial results. At the start of October, Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics said that they’ve developed a drug that reduces the risk of hospitalization or death by around 50 percent for patients with mild or moderate cases of Covid. The UK has already approved the Merck pill as a covid-19 medicine.