Pfizer studying oral antiviral drug designed to prevent COVID-19

Coronavirus

The Pfizer logo is seen at the Pfizer Inc. headquarters on December 9, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

Pfizer started a large study of an oral antiviral drug designed to prevent COVID-19 infection for people who’ve been exposed to the virus.

Pfizer’s study of the drug, PF-07321332, will include up to 2,660 healthy adult participants ages 18 and older who live in the same household with an individual who has a confirmed symptomatic COVID-19 infection.

The goal of the study is to “assess the safety and efficacy of the drug for prevention of confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection and its symptoms through Day 14.”

The drug, a protease inhibitor, is designed to block the activity of a key enzyme needed for the coronavirus to multiply. It will be administered along with a low dose of ritonavir, an older medication typically used to treat HIV infection. The ritonavir is expected to slow the breakdown of PF-07321332 so it will remain active in the body for a longer period of time.

The company said the Phase 1 clinical trial demonstrated that the drug was safe and effective.

Pfizer is also studying the impact of the drug on COVID-19 patients who are at high risk of severe illness and those who were at standard risk in separate trials.

According to Reuters, the treatment is one of three antiviral drugs in the works. Drugmakers Merck & Co. Inc. and Roche Holding AG are also developing oral COVID-19 medications.

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