COVID-19 antiviral pills: 3 updates

Drugmakers are continuing their efforts to develop and test antiviral pills for COVID-19 as cases and hospitalizations surge throughout the country.

The experimental treatments are oral pills intended to treat COVID-19 the way TamiFlu attacks the flu. Below are three key updates about these pills:

  1. In March, Pfizer began trials for its COVID-19 pill. The drugmaker is preparing to enroll more than 2,000 participants in a trial testing the pill combined with a booster antiviral drug against a placebo.

    Pending positive results from the clinical trials and FDA approval, the pill could be distributed across the U.S. by the end of 2021, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, PhD, told CNBC in April.

  2. Merck is developing a COVID-19 antiviral pill with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics that is currently being evaluated in a phase 3 clinical trial. The drug has been studied in the past as a potential treatment for Ebola.

    In June, Merck entered an agreement to supply the U.S. with 1.7 million courses of the drug. If the pill receives FDA approval, Merck will receive about $1.2 billion.

  3. Japanese drugmaker Shionogi began human trials for its once-a-day COVID-19 pill in July, The Wall Street Journal reported. The drugmaker said the trials will likely continue until 2022.

    The pill aims to neutralize the virus five days after a patient takes it, according to Shionogi CEO Isao Teshirogi, PhD.

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