American pharmaceutical company Pfizer has announced it has started a large-scale clinical trial of its anti-Covid-19 pill to test how it reduces the risk of infection in people close to an infected person.
The antiviral will help prevent the virus from replicating and the approach of the medicine is “complementary” to the existing Covid-19 vaccine, according to Mikael Dolsten, Chief Scientific Officer of Pfizer’s Worldwide Research, Development and Medical.
“With the continued impact of COVID-19 around the world, we believe that tackling the virus will require effective treatments for people who contract, or have been exposed to, the virus, complementing the impact that vaccines have had in helping quell infections,” he said on Monday.
“If successful, we believe this therapy could help stop the virus early – before it has had a chance to replicate extensively – potentially preventing symptomatic disease in those who have been exposed and inhibiting the onset of infection in others,” Dolsten added.
He stressed the importance of preventing the virus from replicating in the battle to stop the continued evolution of new Covid-19 variants.
The medicine has two main benefits, as it can be given to people who already have the disease to lower the risk of them suffering severe symptoms, but it can also prevent those who have been in close contact from developing the virus.
The pill can be taken orally, meaning it can be used at the first sign of infection with, or exposure to, the virus, and should be administered in combination with a “low dose” of the drug ritonavir, which is used against the AIDS virus.
This particular phase of the trial will test the medicine on people who are at least 18 years old – up to 2,660 healthy adult participants will be enrolled – and who live in the same household as an individual with a confirmed symptomatic coronavirus infection.
Two other clinical trials have been underway since this summer on thousands of participants to assess the effectiveness of the product on people already infected with Covid-19, including a group of people at high risk of developing a severe case of the disease, and another at low risk.
Results from previous trials showed that the pill is not harmful to people’s health.