The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the emergency use of an antiviral COVID-19 pill, the pill’s maker Pfizer Inc. said Wednesday.
The company says the pill, which is to be taken with another antiviral drug, ritonavir, is 90% effective in preventing hospitalization and death in high-risk people.
“The efficacy is high, the side effects are low and it’s oral. It checks all the boxes,” Dr. Gregory Poland of the Mayo Clinic told The Associated Press. “You’re looking at a 90% decreased risk of hospitalization and death in a high-risk group—that’s stunning.”
The pill is the first at-home treatment for the virus and is approved for use in those 12 and older who are at high risk.
Pfizer says it’s ready to start delivery of the drug immediately in the U.S. and will produce 120 million courses in 2022.
The U.S. government has a contract with the company for 10 million courses priced at $530 per course.
The drug will be sold under the name Paxlovid and will have to be taken every 12 hours for five days once COVID-19 symptoms appear. Potential users of the new drug will have to show a positive virus test.
Drug giant Merck is also working on a similar drug.
Despite the promise, health officials say getting a vaccine is still the best way to stave off the worst effects of the virus.
Some information in this report comes from The Associated Press and Reuters.