How far in the future is the Pfizer COVID-19 pill?

Courtesy of Riddhi Jani

With each passing day, the possibility of having an additional form of treatment for COVID-19 seems more inevitable. In an article by CBC, Pfizer Inc. said that its experimental antiviral pill Paxlovid has cut rates of hospitalization and death by nearly 90 per cent in adults who have a high risk of susceptibility to COVID-19. 

A trial was conducted and included roughly 1,200 high-risk, non-hospitalized adults with COVID-19, who each had at least one element of an underlying medical condition associated with an increased risk of developing a severe case of COVID-19.

The groups were split in two, with one receiving the pill and one receiving a placebo. The trial’s interim results showed an 89 per cent reduction in hospitalisation or death in the Paxlovid group compared to the placebo group.

Following 28 days of the trial, the Paxlovid group reported zero deaths, while the second group saw 10 deaths, with both groups experiencing mild side effects.

With the Paxlovid trials generating positive results, it will not only be an additional method of treating the virus in general, but also can be used for at-home treatment. 

Microbiologist and York chemistry Professor Dasantila Golemi-Kotra says that the virus can still evolve and become resistant to the drugs, stressing the importance of vaccination. “You can not let a pandemic continue thinking that we have a pill that can treat the disease, as sooner or later that virus will become resistant to that treatment if it continues to infect millions of people. However, vaccination and availability to anti-COVID-19 treatment will certainly have a great impact on the pandemic.”

Golemi-Kotra continues, “If the health officials are not careful at framing the significance of a COVID-19 treatment pill, it can indeed lead to the wrong conclusion that the pill is the solution out of a pandemic, and hence provide an excuse (or campaign) for people to refuse vaccination, and that will be a dangerous outcome.” 

She further emphasized that the pill only treats the disease, rather than protect against it or infection. “The pill can also treat the disease if it is administered at the onset of the disease, so detecting the infection early on is key, but a challenge in countries where testing can be an issue.” 

Brooke Benatar, a registered nurse and graduate from York, believes the Paxlovid pill is “a good alternative to keeping individuals who could develop serious illness from the virus despite being double vaccinated.”

 However, Benatar believes that despite its promising results, the pill will likely be a “mild-moderate success.” 

“This is because the people who chose not to take the vaccines are the ones who are more likely to develop severe illness. However, these are the same people that are either hesitant to trust the science, or do not believe that COVID-19 is a serious illness.” 

Regarding the possibility of people being deterred from getting vaccinated, Benatar says, “It is tough to say whether this pill could deter people from getting vaccinated, since many individuals who are hesitant to get vaccinated may likely be hesitant to take a brand new pill too. It is possible that individuals with vaccination hesitancy might use the pill as an excuse to avoid vaccination.”

Paxlovid is also currently awaiting evaluation from Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

About the Author

By Nick Mokrzewski

News Editor

Nick is in his third year of Film Production at York University. Raised in an artistic family, he’s never had much problem expressing himself whether it be through music, writing, or comedic rants. He’s a big sucker for watching and critiquing films, going to concerts, professional wrestling, and consuming coffee or chocolate. Nick intends to have many artistic pursuits in either writing, filmmaking, or anything that involves music — whatever suits his fancy on the given day. He’ll often tell you “life is short, seize the moment ‘cause tomorrow you might be dead!”


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