Pfizer begins human trials of pill to treat COVID-19

Pfizer begins human trials of pill to treat COVID-19

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has kicked off early stage clinical trials of an experimental oral antiviral drug to treat COVID-19. 

The company announced the phase one trial of the drug, PF-07321332, is currently taking place in the U.S. 

The treatment is a potent protease inhibitor, the same kind of technology used to treat HIV and hepatitis C. Protease inhibitors bind to a viral enzyme and prevent the virus from replicating in the cell.

Pfizer said preclinical studies showed the oral antiviral "demonstrated potent in vitro anti-viral activity against SARS-CoV-2, as well as activity against other coronaviruses." That means the treatment could be useful against future coronavirus threats. 

"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," Mikeal Dolsten, Pfizer chief scientific officer, said in a statement. 

Dolsten said the oral therapy could be prescribed to a patient at the first sign of infection, without requiring they be hospitalized or in critical care. 

Pfizer is also studying an intravenous anti-viral therapy to treat COVID-19 that is being used in a clinical trial involving hospitalized patients.  

Currently, the only FDA-approved anti-viral treatment for COVID-19 is Gilead’s Remdesivir therapy. 

Pfizer says it will share pre-clinical data on its experimental pill on April 6, The Hill reported.