Tests are currently ongoing at Pfizer facilities to develop the first-ever home cure for the dreaded COVID-19 disease. If proven successful, it could radically ease the burdens of the global pandemic response and provide hope to the most susceptible groups all over the world.
Housed in two unnamed Pfizer buildings in the U.S. and Belgium, the tests were conducted among 60 healthy and comorbidity-free adults aged between 18 and 60. The pill is classified as a “protease inhibitor” which is designed to stop the SARS-CoV-2 virus right in its tracks. It does so by going after the “spine,” preventing the virus from duplicating in a person’s nose, lungs, and throat.
Heads of government have already declared their interest in the drug. For instance, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has expressed keenness in intensified investments in such drugs, especially after the “Antivirals Taskforce” was set up.
What makes this pill a breakthrough cure? The tests focus on a custom-made antiviral with code name “PF-07321332.” It was developed as a direct response to the pandemic, as bared by Dafydd Owen, director of Pfizer’s medicinal chemistry division.
The developers only managed to come up with seven milligrams of the compound in July 2020, but had produced 100 mg by October 2020. In the two weeks that followed, a total of 210 researchers managed to develop 1 kg of the compound.
‘Quietly optimistic’ news
So far, Pfizer has been tight-lipped on details about test outcomes surrounding the pill. The company’s official statement suggests that the compound produced exhibited that it is “potent in vitro antiviral activity against SARS-CoV-2” and other coronavirus strains.
According to Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer’s chief scientific officer and head of global research, PF-07321332 is designed as an oral remedy capable of stopping infection at first sight. Doing so would erase the necessity of hospitalization and critical care.
Meanwhile, if true, these developments have been described by experts in pharmaceutical medicine as “quietly optimistic.” The biggest challenge to the pill is how humans will tolerate it.
Human trials yet to commence
While the pill has been tested and proven safe for animals, Pfizer has only recently begun human trials. Experts found that the study compound had no discernible side effects on animals at varying dosage levels administered, based on official documents.
Meanwhile, volunteers have signed up for randomised clinical trials that will run intensively for a few months. There are three trial phases for 145 days plus an additional 28 days devoted to “screening and dosing.”
The drug study aims to determine whether administering different dose levels of the
PF-07321332 combined with ritonavir (an HIV antiviral) can be tolerated in the human body.
The documents stated that all possible participants to the Pfizer-sponsored clinical trials are doing so voluntarily and that they understand the risks associated with falsely declaring health information.
Introducing a new drug into the market in today’s environment has complex practical challenges. The Pfizer pill needs to pass the phase 3 trial to determine whether it works against SARS-CoV-2 in humans. Following that, the drug will still be released to a hefty price tag despite the overwhelming need to access affordable and effective medicines for COVID-19.