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Will the Pfizer COVID pill make an impact on the pandemic?

According to the company's clinical trial, the medication was highly effective in preventing hospitalizations for high-risk adults.

COLORADO, USA — On Thursday the Biden administration announced they've bought 10 million courses of Pfizer's COVID treatment pill. According to the company's clinical trial, the medication was highly effective in preventing hospitalizations for high-risk adults. 

President Biden says that delivery of the pills will start at the end of this year and continue through next year. On Tuesday, Pfizer submitted its application for the FDA to grant emergency authorization for the COVID-19 pill. 

In the company's clinical trial of adults more susceptible to COVID, the pill showed an 89% efficacy in preventing hospitalization and death when taken within three days of showing symptoms. 

9NEWS spoke to National Jewish Health infectious disease physician Dr. Jared Eddy about the impact the pill could have on the country's COVID response. 

(Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for context and clarity.)

What is a COVID-19 treatment pill? 

Dr. Eddy: Well, there’s a couple of pills that are going to go for emergency use authorization for the treatment of early COVID infection in people who are at risk of having severe disease and the promise of these pills is that you can get people on treatment more quickly. You can decrease severity of infection and keep them out of the hospital.

So the Pfizer medication is used with ritonavir which is a well-known medication that is often used in regiments for HIV to boost the levels of other drugs and this case would help to prolong the affect of the other drug, the Pfizer drug.

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What were the results for the Pfizer COVID-19 pill trial?

Dr. Eddy:  There were several hundred people in the trial and when they compare to the placebo group there were many fewer cases of people actually needing to be hospitalized so there was a drop of 89% in the Pfizer study. There's a similar pill from Merck where the drop was about 50% and that’s for hospitalizations and deaths overall but no one died receiving these pills versus there were deaths in the placebo group.

What kind of impact could this Pfizer pill have on COVID response? 

Dr. Eddy: I mean potentially it could have a big impact. Really we want the individuals to decrease their level of infection but also in terms of not over burdening the healthcare system this could be a big player in keeping people out of the hospital and really lessening the impact overall on the health system.

Do you think this is the answer to combat COVID-19? 

Dr. Eddy: I think it is a step in the right direction. There is one thing I worry about and that’s people will understand that this pill is coming and use that as a reason not to get vaccinated and so this should not be a reason not to get vaccinated. These things can still work together and we do anticipate that they will at some point be authorized for people who have had COVID-19 vaccination as well and breakthrough infection but still vaccination is prevention, so not getting sick in the first place is best way to stop the spread. Vaccines are our best tool, medically speaking, to prevent spreading COVID-19 and easing the burden on the health care system. This pill would be something that would be in addition to that, that would be very helpful. 

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