Pfizer has announced that its new type of antiviral treatment, a Covid-19 pill, has shown to reduce hospitalisations and deaths among people who are at risk by up to 90%.
This new treatment is said to withstand the mutations seen with the new Covid-19 variant called the Omicron variant.
This announcement took place after a study from South Africa showed that two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 70% effective in stopping severe illness from the Omicron variant. This is a result which researchers called encouraging.
The clinical trial showed that the pill reduced the need for hospitalisation in high-risk adults with Covid-19 by 89% if the treatment was given within three days of the patient showing symptoms and by 88% if given within 5 days, Pfizer said.
2 200 volunteers were involved in the trial for the new pill, however the pill has not yet been authorised or approved for use anywhere in the world.
Pfizer has also said that its other new treatment, called Paxlovid, withstood the Omicron variant in lab-testing.
"This news provides further corroboration that our oral antiviral candidate, if authorized or approved, could have a meaningful impact on the lives of many," Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement, saying the new drug could "save lives".
Overall, there were 12 deaths in the placebo group who did not receive the drug and no deaths in the group that received the drug.
Side-effects were found at comparable rates between the treatment and placebo groups (23% and 24%, respectively), and were mostly mild.
Pfizer said there were also encouraging results from a trial among people at standard risk of developing severe Covid-19, but that the study is still ongoing.
The University of KwaZulu-Natal's Senior Lecturer in the Division of Pharmacology, Andy Gray, says that more data is needed in order for the drug to be approved as there are still many challenges that exist for its use in practice.
One of the challenges is that Covid-19 infections must be accurately detected at its early stages for the Covid-19 pill to work effectively and often people are do not get diagnosed early enough.
Another challenge is that there is not enough data to determine whether it is safe for pregnant people and those who take chronic medication to take the pill.
Gray has emphasized that people should not view this Covid-19 pill as an alternative to getting vaccinated.