NEW ORLEANS — Pfizer says it has developed a new medication that can save the lives of close to 90 percent of patients who get COVID.
Today's announcement comes just a little more than a month after another pharmaceutical company, Merck, announced it developed one as well.
There is more promising science in the treatment of the coronavirus. Pfizer announces an antiviral pill combination. The company says when taken within the first five days of symptoms, Paxlovid, prevented almost 90 percent of COVID deaths.
“Medications like this can be game-changers in particularly at-risk people,” said Dr. Jerry Zifodya, a Tulane Pulmonary and Critical Care Physician.
He says this is an older type of proven medical technology. It's like the one used against the AIDS virus. Viruses get in your cells and use that machinery to copy themselves. Antivirals prevent just as Tamiflu does against flu viruses. With a lower viral load, your risk and length of illness go down.
“Reducing hospitalization to us is a very incredibly big deal, but you may still be ill and not feel well and be at home.”
“As a critical care physician at the bedside of the people who were the worst and who are dying what does this mean to you?” I asked.
“Maybe they don't end up in the ICU. Maybe they don't end up seeing me. I am very excited at that prospect,” answered Dr. Zifodya.
But he cautions we've only seen company press releases. Those study data are not out yet for doctors to scrutinize. So they can't accurately compare the Merck COVID antiviral pill yet to the Pfizer one.
“So there are some differences which is why I would urge caution, but rather say I'm excited for both. If they are efficacious, and they work, absolutely we will take whatever we can to help with this pandemic.”
“Do you foresee a day where people get exposed to someone who is positive, they're not positive yet, but they take it early on as a prophylactic?” I asked.
“Absolutely. I think that that day is going to come and hopefully that also will again reduce the number of infections,” answered Dr. Zifodya.
But even with the positive news, he still encourages vaccinations.
“Is it as efficacious as the vaccine is? Not from what we're reading, but the vaccine is still the number one way to prevent severe illness,” he said.
And unlike the investigational pills, vaccines are on the market now.
Pfizer said it will submit its preliminary trial results to the FDA as part of the emergency use application it started last month.