Pfizer’s experimental COVID-19 pill significantly reduced hospitalizations and deaths in high-risk patients — and recent lab data showed that it was still effective against the Omicron variant, the company said Tuesday.
The full results of its 2,250-person study showed that the oral medicine was around 89 percent effective in preventing hospitalizations or deaths when taken by high-risk adults shortly after initial COVID-19 symptoms.
None of the patients in the trial who were given the Pfizer treatment died, compared with 12 deaths among placebo recipients, the company said.
Separate laboratory testing showed that the treatment retains its effectiveness against the fast-spreading Omicron variant, the company said.
Pfizer also said early data from a second clinical trial showed that the treatment reduced hospitalizations by around 70 percent in around 600 standard-risk adults.
“It’s a stunning outcome,” Pfizer chief scientific officer Mikael Dolsten said.
“We’re talking about a staggering number of lives saved and hospitalizations prevented. And of course, if you deploy this quickly after infection, we are likely to reduce transmission dramatically,” he continued.
Dolsten said he anticipates authorization for the treatment from the Food and Drug Administration and other regulatory agencies soon.
The agency is also expected to rule on a competing pill from Merck, which was submitted to regulators several weeks before Pfizer’s drug.
If approved, the pills would be the first COVID-19 treatments in the US that could be picked up at a pharmacy and taken at home.
The new data comes as health officials brace for the impact of the new Omicron variant, which has a record number of mutations and is believed to be more transmissible.
A large-scale study in South Africa released Tuesday showed Pfizer’s two-dose vaccine was just 33 percent effective in preventing infection by Omicron compared to those who were unvaccinated during the early wave of the variant.
The analysis was based on more than 211,000 positive COVID-19 test results, 41 perent of which were among recipients of Pfizer’s two-dose vaccine.
The results also showed that people who had received two doses of Pfizer’s vaccine had 70 percent protection against hospital admission in this same time frame.
The protection is down from the highs of 93 percent in South Africa’s Delta-driven wave, according to the analysis.
Experts in South Africa suggested that the data appears to be in line with the surge of infections that the country is experiencing as Omicron has overtaken Delta to become the dominant variant.
“The Omicron-driven fourth wave has a significantly steeper trajectory of new infections relative to prior waves,” Discovery Health chief executive Dr. Ryan Noach said.
“National data show an exponential increase in both new infections and test positivity rates during the first three weeks of this wave, indicating a highly transmissible variant with rapid community spread of infection.”
With Post wires