Pfizer’s potent antiviral treatment endorsed by WHO

April 22, 2022
Pfizer’s potent antiviral treatment endorsed by WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) has backed the use of Pfizer Inc’s (Pfizer) oral COVID-19 antiviral treatment, Paxlovid, in high-risk patients in the early stages of the disease, to avoid hospitalisation. However, WHO is quick to mention that existing COVID-19 treatments including intravenous and antibody treatments, are not to replace vaccination.

The recommendation by WHO comes after an analysis of trial data by the United Nations agency showed incorporation of the Paxlovid treatment in 3,100 patients dramatically cuts the risk of hospitalisation. For those with over 10% risk of hospitalisation, using Paxlovid could lead to 84 fewer hospitalisations per 1,000 patients – an overall 85% reduction in risk.

“These therapeutics do not replace vaccination. They just give us another treatment option for those patients that do get infected that are at higher risk,” said Janet Diaz, Lead on Clinical Management, WHO, referring to patients who have underlying chronic conditions, or are immunocompromised or unvaccinated.

Pfizer expects Paxlovid to bring in US$22 billion in sales in 2022, according to a statement earlier this year. The drugmaker has agreed to sell up to 4 million treatment courses to UNICEF for use in 95 low-income countries that encompass just over half the world’s population. This deal accounts for just over 3% of Pfizer’s projected production of 120 million courses this year.

While recommended, Paxlovid is known to interact with many common medications, complicating its use. Paxlovid has also not been investigated for use in pregnant of breastfeeding women, or children.

Separately, the WHO has updated its recommendation on Gilead Science’s COVID-19 treatment, remdesivir, saying it should be used in mild or moderate COVID-19 patients at high risk of hospitalisation. It had previously recommended its use in all COVID-19 patients, regardless of disease severity.

Read: Pfizer, UNICEF to supply Paxlovid COVID-19 oral treatment for low-, middle-income countries

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Category: Features, Pharmaceuticals

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