Pfizer's at-home Covid pill outperforms Omicron and reduces death risk by 89 percent.
According to Pfizer, a new Covid pill drastically reduces hospitalizations and deaths, and it will also fight Omicron.
Early results showed that the drug reduced hospitalizations and deaths among at-risk people by an "amazing" 89 percent.
According to lab studies, treatment should be able to withstand the highly mutated Omicron variant, which is expected to become dominant in the UK in the coming days.
The news came as a study found that two doses of the Pfizer Covid vaccine were 70% effective in preventing severe Omicron disease.
In a statement, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the new pill, which has yet to be approved anywhere in the world, could "save lives."
"This news adds to the growing body of evidence that our oral antiviral candidate, if approved or authorized, could have a significant impact on the lives of many people," he said.
"It's a stunning result," said Chief Scientific Officer Mikael Dolsten.
"We're talking about a huge number of lives saved and hospitalizations avoided here."
"We are likely to reduce transmission dramatically if you deploy this quickly after infection," he added.
Paxlovid, the medicine, was tested on more than 2,200 volunteers.
When given within three days of symptom onset, the pill reduced the need for hospitalization by 89 percent in high-risk individuals, and by 88 percent if given within five days.
Nobody died in the drug group, whereas 12 people died in the control group.
Hospitalizations were reduced by 70% in people with a standard Covid risk, but Pfizer is still studying this group.
Paxlovid is a drug that combines two drugs: nirmatrelvir, a new experimental medicine, and ritonavir, a widely used antiviral.
Nirmatrelvir belongs to a class of drugs known as "protease inhibitors," and it works by inhibiting the action of an enzyme required for coronavirus replication.
HIV, hepatitis C, and other viruses are already treated with these drugs.
Ritonavir is used to increase the efficacy of nirmatrelvir by slowing its breakdown inside the body.
People would take a total of 30 pills over the course of five days if it were approved.
Paxlovid does not target the coronavirus's spike proteins on the surface.
It should, in theory, be able to withstand mutations in the spike, which frequently occur when new variants emerge.
The spike protein in Omicron has dozens of mutations, but this should not affect the drug's efficacy.
Because Covid vaccines were designed to target the spike protein, they have become less effective against new variants like Omicron.
The drug has yet to be approved for use anywhere in the world, including the United Kingdom, but Pfizer believes it will be approved in the United States in the coming days after sharing its data with the US Food and Drug Administration.
A taskforce was formed by government ministers to find at-home pills that could be taken early in the course of Covid disease.
So far, regulators have approved Merck's molnupiravir (also known as Lagevrio) and Ridgeback Pharmaceuticals' molnupiravir (also known as Lagevrio).
In a clinical trial of high-risk patients, the drug showed modest results, reducing hospitalizations and deaths by around 30%.
According to scientists, the drug is only beneficial to the most vulnerable people.
There are also some safety concerns, as molnupiravir is not recommended for pregnant women due to concerns about birth defects raised in animal studies.
Molnupiravir, which works differently than the Pfizer drug, will be tested in a national pilot by the NHS before Christmas.
However, in light of the emergence of Omicron, England's chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, recently warned that its use may need to be reconsidered.
In just a few weeks, the variant has become a significant stumbling block in the fight against Covid.
Although jabs are still the best protection against it, a new study suggests that people who have received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine are 70% less likely to be admitted to hospital than those who have not been vaccinated.
This is a lower percentage than the 93% against Delta.
Based on early data from the Omicron outbreak in South Africa, experts also supported the theory that the strain is milder.
The study found that adults infected with Omicron in the country were 29% less likely to require hospital care than those infected with earlier variants.