A Blog by Jonathan Low

 

Jul 26, 2021

Race To Have Anti-Covid Pill This Year Heats Up With Japanese Entry

An anti-Covid pill taken at home once or twice a day could be on the market as soon as the end of this year. Pfizer, Merck and now the Japanese company Shionogi all have pills in clinical trials. 

The purpose of the pill would be to reduce symptoms and prevent hospitalization. Given the resistance by some people to vaccination, the pill could be an important contribution to stopping the global pandemic. JL

Dan Ansaldo reports in Skip:

In March, Pfizer announced it was beginning clinical trials on an oral antiviral drug to combat Covid. Merck signed a $1.2 billion agreement with the U.S. government to be the provider of its drug. The Japanese company, Shionogi, (also) jumped into the race. Unlike Pfizer's drug which would be taken twice per day, Shionogi's drug would only be taken once per day. Shionogi’s CEO stated “Our target is a safe oral compound, like Tamiflu," used to treat influenza. The goal of all three companies is the same: develop a drug that can be taken at home to fight Covid-19.

In March 2021, Pfizer announced it was beginning clinical trials on an oral antiviral drug to combat Covid-19. The therapeutic is a protease inhibitor that prevents the virus from replicating. Protease inhibitors are already used to combat other diseases, such as HIV and Hepatitis C. This SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19 virus) drug, if/when it becomes available, would be taken orally at the first sign of infection to help fight off the virus and prevent hospitalization. Pfizer's pill may be available later this year.

Meanwhile, Merck has been on a quest for a Covid-19 antiviral drug as well. Merck signed a $1.2 billion agreement with the U.S. government to be the provider of their drug, Molnupiravir, should it be cleared for human use. During phase 2a trials, the drug's efficacy looked promising. Merck's antiviral may also be cleared later this year, potentially putting two Covid-19 therapeutic drugs on the market.

Recently, the Japanese company, Shionogi, jumped into the race. Shionogi helped develop Crestor, the groundbreaking drug to help cholesterol. Unlike Pfizer's drug which would be taken twice per day if approved, Shionogi's drug would only be taken once per day. Shionogi’s CEO, Isao Teshirogi, stated “Our target is a very safe oral compound, like Tamiflu, like Xofluza," both of which are used to treat influenza.

The goal of all three companies is the same: develop a drug that can be taken at home to fight Covid-19. Vaccination rates continue to rise in the U.S. and around the world, but many cannot take the vaccine or do not want to take the vaccine. Also, even some who are vaccinated are catching Covid. Having an effective antiviral on the marketplace would be a game-changer.

Delta Continues to Make Headlines

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