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Pfizer says antiviral drug to treat COVID-19 could be here by year's end

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Pfizer CEO and chairman Albert Bourla says that the biopharmaceutical company behind the COVID-19 vaccine could publicly release an antiviral drug designed to treat the coronavirus by the end of 2021.

What are the details?

Bourla on Monday told CNBC's "Squawk Box" that the drug — called PF-07321332 — is an antiviral drug intended for oral ingestion in COVID-19-positive patients when the illness is first detected. The company is also testing an intravenous option.

The treatment is anticipated to be effective against varying strains of the deadly virus.

Bourla said that the company is zeroing in on the oral option as it "provides several advantages" and can be taken in the comfort of the patient's home. The option, he added, would be a "game-changer."

"The compound that we are talking about and you said very well the numbers, it is a protease inhibitor," he explained. "The good thing is that this is also the first molecule that is coming from this type of class, this is good thing because you can combine it with other classes. Also, the mechanism of action, it is such that it's not expected to be subject to mutations, particularly because it's not acting on the spike, as we all know, all the mutations that we are hearing right now are seeing this in the proteins of the spike."

"This one doesn't work there so that allows us to believe that will be way more effective against the multiple variants," Bourla added. "So, all good news. We are now progressing the studies and we will have more news around summer."

Bourla added that he hopes the drug could be released to the public by the end of 2021.

"[I]f all goes well, and we implement the same speech that we did so far and we are and if regulators also do the same and they are, I hope by the end of the year," he said.

What else?

The company in March announced it had begun Phase 1 clinical trials of the antiviral treatment.

From a Tuesday Forbes report:

Pfizer announced late last month they had begun Phase 1 clinical trials of the drug, called PF-07321332. Its effectiveness is due to protease inhibitors in the drug that bind to viral enzymes, preventing viruses from replicating in the cell. "Tackling the Covid-19 pandemic requires both prevention via vaccine and targeted treatment for those who contract the virus," said Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer's chief scientific officer, in a press release. "Given the way that SARS-CoV-2 is mutating and the continued global impact of COVID-19, it appears likely that it will be critical to have access to therapeutic options both now and beyond the pandemic." According to Pfizer, protease inhibitors have proven effective in combating other viral pathogens such as HIV and hepatitis C.
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