A pill that can be ingested orally at home to combat Covid-19 when illness is first detected could be available to the public by the end of 2021, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC on Tuesday, noting that the antiviral treatment is expected to be effective against variants of the virus.

Pfizer announced late last month they had begun Phase 1 clinical trials of the drug, called … [+] PF-07321332.

Key Facts

Asked about a story published Monday in the Telegraph, which reported trials are underway in the U.S. and Belgium with adult volunteers taking pills designed to provide a “cure” for Covid-19, Bourla acknowledged “it is accurate” to say Pfizer is “working on” such therapies. 

Bourla explained that the company is testing two antivirals, one that is injected intravenously and another that is administered orally. 

He noted Pfizer is focusing on the oral option because it “provides several advantages,” with the major benefit being avoiding a trip to the hospital or another healthcare provider to get the treatment.

Being able to take an oral antiviral therapeutic for SARS-CoV-2 at home would be a “game changer,” according to Bourla.

When asked what he thought was a reasonable timeframe for the pill to clear through Phase 3 testing and become available, Bourla responded: “If all goes well… I hope by the end of the year.”

He added the company planned to provide a detailed update over the summer.

Key Background:

Pfizer announced late last month they had begun Phase 1 clinical trials of the drug, called PF-07321332. Its effectiveness is due to protease inhibitors in the drug that bind to viral enzymes, preventing viruses from replicating in the cell. “Tackling the Covid-19 pandemic requires both prevention via vaccine and targeted treatment for those who contract the virus,” said Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer’s chief scientific officer, in a press release. “Given the way that SARS-CoV-2 is mutating and the continued global impact of COVID-19, it appears likely that it will be critical to have access to therapeutic options both now and beyond the pandemic.” According to Pfizer, protease inhibitors have proven effective in combating other viral pathogens such as HIV and hepatitis C. 


During Tuesday’s interview, Bourla also asserted it is imperative that impoverished nations get increased access to vaccines. “In a pandemic, you are as protected as your neighbor, said Bourla. “So, setting aside the moral issues, if we will not be able to provide solutions” for countries dealing with deadly outbreaks, such as India and Africa, those nations “will become the pool where the virus will replicate and will generate variants.”

Big Number:

3 billion. Bourla said Tuesday that Pfizer will produce at least 2.5 billion doses of their vaccine this year, which equates to 3 billion doses on an annualized basis.

Further Reading:

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