TUESDAY, Dec. 14, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Pfizer Inc. announced Tuesday that a final analysis shows its experimental antiviral pill Paxlovid sharply reduced hospitalizations and deaths among COVID-19 patients at high risk for severe illness.

The latest results, which reinforce an earlier analysis released in November, show that the Pfizer drug cut hospitalizations and deaths by nearly 90 percent when taken within three to five days of the start of symptoms, the company said, and preliminary lab studies also suggest the pill will hold up against the omicron variant.

“This news provides further corroboration that our oral antiviral candidate, if authorized or approved, could have a meaningful impact on the lives of many, as the data further support the efficacy of Paxlovid in reducing hospitalization and death and show a substantial decrease in viral load. This underscores the treatment candidate’s potential to save the lives of patients around the world,” Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said in a company statement. “Emerging variants of concern, like omicron, have exacerbated the need for accessible treatment options for those who contract the virus, and we are confident that, if authorized or approved, this potential treatment could be a critical tool to help quell the pandemic.”

In its Tuesday announcement, Pfizer also delivered some good news about people who are at low risk for severe COVID-19: In an early analysis, a second, ongoing study that tested whether Paxlovid eased COVID-19 symptoms faster in people who are not considered high-risk found no benefit for symptom relief. But those who took the pill regimen saw the amount of virus in their bodies plummet, and the pill reduced their already low risk for hospitalization and death. That study included those who were vaccinated and had at least one risk factor for severe COVID-19.

The Pfizer pills do have some limitations. The pill contains the medication ritonavir that can interact with many commonly taken medicines, and those risks may need to be managed by physicians and pharmacists.

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