On Tuesday, an experimental oral drug to treat COVID-19 was introduced in an interview with CNBC.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla was asked during his interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” what would be a reasonable time frame for the release of the antiviral pill. “If all goes well and we implement the same speed that we did so far, and if regulators do the same and they are, I hope that by the end of the year,” Bourla said.
— Squawk Box (@SquawkCNBC) April 27, 2021
He then explained, “Particular attention is on the oral because it provides several advantages. One of them is that you don’t need to go to the hospital to get the treatment, which is the case with all the injectables so far. You could get it at home, and that could be a game-changer.”
Bourla also said the medication could be “way more effective against the multiple variants” of the virus than current options.
Bourla noted that the company should have more news about it later this summer.
Pfizer has a COVID-19 vaccine, which it co-developed with German drug company BioNTech, that was granted emergency authorization by the FDA in December, one of three vaccines against the disease currently approved for use in the U.S.
Thus far, more than 121 million doses of the vaccine have been administered across the country.
The company, which developed the first authorized COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. with German drugmaker BioNTech, began in March an early-stage clinical trial testing a new antiviral therapy for the disease. The drug is part of a class of medicines called protease inhibitors and works by inhibiting an enzyme that the virus needs to replicate in human cells.
Protease inhibitors are used to treat other viral pathogens such as HIV and hepatitis C.
If approve by the Food and Drug Administration and clinical trials go well, the drug could be distributed across the U.S. by the end of the year, Bourla told CNBC.
Health experts say the drug, taken by mouth, could be a game-changer because people newly infected with the virus could use it outside of hospitals. Researchers hope the medication will keep the disease from progressing and prevent hospital trips.
In addition to the drug, Pfizer is still testing its vaccine in 6-month to 11-year-old children. Vaccinating children is crucial to ending the coronavirus pandemic, public health officials and infectious disease experts say.
Earlier this month, the company asked the FDA to expand its vaccine authorization to adolescents ages 12 to 15 after the shot was found to be 100% effective in a study.
The National Institutes of Health is also currently testing existing prescription and over-the-counter medications to see if repurposing them could help treat people with mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19.
On April 19, the NIH said that it is funding a large study to analyze multiple drugs and their effects on COVID-19, which will hopefully allow adults who are not sick enough to be hospitalized with COVID-19 to be able to treat themselves with medications that are already commonly available to the public.
NIH also said that they’re looking at seven drugs to see if they can help alleviate symptoms, but didn’t specify which ones. The drugs have already been approved by the FDA for other conditions, and the NIH said testing them now in COVID-19 patients is a process known as “drug repurposing.”