Pfizer Inc. said Tuesday that it had begun human trials for a new pill to treat coronavirus. The pill is taken immediately upon first signs of the virus and, if trials are successful, Pfizer’s pill could be prescribed as a treatment for Covid-19 before the end of the year.
The pill works essentially as a protease inhibitor. It blocks viral replication before patients get very ill.
The medication does this by binding to an enzyme called a protease in order to keep the virus from replicating. Other protease inhibiting medicines include therapies that have been successful in treating HIV and Hepatitis C.
The drug would likely be given twice a day for about five days.
According to a statement from Pfizer’s Chief Scientist Mikael Dolsten, the coronavirus pill could play a significant roll in combatting the virus in the future. “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 therapeutic options both now and beyond the pandemic,” he said.
If the treatment is successful, the company hopes to being a combined phase 2 and phase 3 of its trials early in the second quarter. This would enable Pfizer to apply for approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by the end of this year.
Initial testing is focused on treating people with infections but, the company also intends to explore whether or not its treatment could help healthy people who have been exposed to the virus.
Shares of Pfizer closed down 1.78% at $35.36 per share on Tuesday. The stock has rallied more than 30% in the last year since the outbreak of coronavirus.