The antiviral Covid-19 pill developed by Pfizer, called Paxlovid, has been given the green light to be used in emergencies by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on Thursday.
The medicine has not yet been authorised in the EU, but received a positive opinion and can be used to treat adults with Covid-19 who are at increased risk of progressing to severe disease.
“Paxlovid should be administered as soon as possible after diagnosis of Covid-19 and within five days of the start of symptoms,” recommended EMA.
Additionally, the two active substances of the medicine (PF-07321332 and ritonavir, which are available as separate tablets) should be taken together, twice a day for five days.
The announcement follows news of rising infection figures in more and more countries due to the highly infectious Omicron variant.
EMA also said that its advice is based on interim results of clinical trials, which show that the number of hospitalisations is reduced and no one in the (limited) test group died from Covid-19.
The main side effects seem to be taste disturbance, diarrhoea and vomiting. Patients with liver or kidney problems should not take the medicine. The pill is not recommended during pregnancy either, and breastfeeding should also be interrupted during treatment.
A similar anti-Covid pill, named Molnupiravir, developed by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics is currently under review by the United States’ Food and Drugs Agency (FDA), and has already been approved for use in the United Kingdom.
After it also received provisional European approval, Belgium decided to purchase 11,520 treatments of this drug.