Pfizer’s COVID-19 treatment pill could be available by year’s end

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla says his company’s experimental COVID-19 treatment, a pill that can be taken at the first sign of the illness, could be available before the end of the year.

Speaking on CNBC, Bourla said clinical trials are underway for the pill. If those go well and the Food and Drug Administration approves the drug, distribution could start by December. The pill could be a critical tool in helping health care officials treat the disease, as it could be used outside of hospitals—lightening the load of frontline workers and potentially stopping the spread of the disease.

Pfizer is not the only company working on this sort of at-home treatment pill. Merck is working on an oral medication called molnupiravir. That antiviral therapy, discovered by scientists at Emory University, is being studied in late-stage trials in both hospital and outpatient settings. Merck and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP expect to have initial data on the drug’s effectiveness in the first quarter, and to wrap up studies in May. Molnupiravir would be taken twice a day over five days.

As work continues on the COVID treatment pill, Pfizer is awaiting word from the FDA on its request to expand emergency authorization on its COVID-19 vaccine to people between the ages of 12 and 15 years old. Earlier this month, the company found the shots to be 100% effective for that group.

Bourla says he’s “very optimistic” that clearance will come.

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