Pfizer is now testing an antiviral pill that has the ability to fight off COVID-19 infection among those who have close contact with this virus and have now tested positive for it.
In a news release Monday, the biotech company announced that they were starting a state-of-the-art, late-stage trial for the drug to test its efficacy against the virus in the combination with a low dose of the HIV drug, Ritonavir, among those who are aged 18 or older and who are living in the same household as someone with a symptomatic COVID-19 infection.
The drugmaker is hoping to enroll at least 2,660 people in this double-blind study, and participants are going to receive either a strategically placed placebo or the treatment regimen for five to 10 days.
This study is just one portion of a larger clinical trial that was launched in March where they are aiming to develop a safe, easy treatment for Coronavirus infections after they surface so as to ease the burden on the hospitals.
CBS news has described the drug as belonging to a class of medicines called protease inhibitors, which have been used to treat diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C. These drugs work by hampering the production of the enzymes that are needed to reproduce within the human cells.
Adding Ritonavir in combination with the pill is one way that scientists hope that the treatment will last longer in the body.
In March, Dr. Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer’s chief scientific officer, had said that the Antiviral treatment would potentially be prescribed “at the first sign of infection, without requiring that patients are hospitalized or in critical care.”
Pfizer employees are also dedicated to testing the drug among individuals already infected with this virus. The company is expecting these results by the end of the year.
“With the continued impact of COVID-19 around the world, we believe that tackling the virus will require effective treatments for people who contract, or have been exposed to, the virus, complementing the impact that vaccines have had in helping quell infections,” Dolsten added in a statement Monday.
“If successful, we believe this therapy could help stop the virus early — before it has had a chance to replicate extensively — potentially preventing symptomatic disease in those who have been exposed and inhibiting the onset of infection in others,” he said.
It definitely is a wide-open market, as Forbes noted that there are few drugs designed to treat infection among those who have either already contracted the disease or who have been exposed to it. The drugs that are on the market are monoclonal antibodies, and they are very expensive and are usually only administered in a hospital setting.