W A S H I N G T O N , March 24, (Agencies): Pfizer said on Tuesday that it has begun early stage US clinical trials of an investigational, oral antiviral drug for COVID-19. According to the company, the candidate “has demonstrated potent in vitro antiviral activity” against the virus that causes COVID-19, as well as activity against other coronaviruses, suggesting the potential for use to address future threats. The candidate is a class of drug known as a protease inhibitor, which has been long used to treat HIV and hepatitis C. The drugs work by blocking a critical enzyme, a protease, that the virus needs to replicate.
“Tackling the COVID-19 pandemic requires both prevention via vaccine and targeted treatment for those who contract the virus. 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,” Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer’s chief scientific officer, said in a statement.
Pfizer is also testing an intravenously administered investigational protease inhibitor for patients who are hospitalized with COVID-19. Gilead Sciences’ remdesivir is currently the only Food and Drug Administration-approved drug for the treatment of COVID-19. The FDA has granted emergency authorization to two antibody therapies, from Regeneron and Eli Lilly, respectively. Health experts say there needs to be a range of treatments, not just vaccines, in order to completely end the pandemic.