Pfizer expects COVID-19 antiviral to work against omicron

Pfizer is confident its COVID-19 antiviral pill, Paxlovid, will be effective against the new omicron variant, the drugmaker's CEO told CNBC Nov. 29. 

The omicron strain, first detected in South Africa, contains 32 mutations in the spike protein, and while preliminary evidence suggests the strain may increase the risk of reinfection, it's still uncertain how the variant may affect illness severity or the effectiveness of vaccines and treatments. 

Albert Bourla, PhD, Pfizer's CEO, told CNBC the company's antiviral was created with the spike protein in mind and expects it will work against omicron. 

"The good news when it comes to our treatment, it was designed with that in mind; it was designed with the fact that most mutations are coming in the spikes," Dr. Bourla said. "So that gives me very high level of confidence that the treatment will not be affected. Our oral treatment will not be affected by this virus." 

Among non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients at risk of progressing to severe illness, Paxlovid reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 89 percent in a phase 3 trial. Pfizer applied for emergency use authorization from the FDA for the pill Nov. 16. The FDA is still reviewing data to decide whether to issue an EUA for Paxlovid. 

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