April 29, 2021 -- Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla says an oral drug the company is developing to treat COVID-19 symptoms could be available to the public by the end of the year.
“If all goes well, and we implement the same speed that we are, and if regulators do the same, and they are, I hope that (it will be available) by the end of the year,” Bourla said on CNBC's Squawk Box.
So far, the only anti-viral drug authorized for use with COVID-19 is Remdesivir, which is produced by Gilead Sciences and must be administered by injection in a health care setting.
An oral drug like the one Pfizer is developing could be taken at home and might keep people out of the hospital.
“Particular attention is on the oral because it provides several advantages,” Bourla said. “One of them is that you don’t need to go to the hospital to get the treatment, which is the case with all the injectables so far. You could get it at home, and that could be a game-changer.”
The drug might be effective against the emerging variants, he said. Pfizer is also working on an injectable anti-viral drug.
Pfizer, with its European partner BioNTech, developed the first coronavirus vaccine authorized for use in the United States and Europe. The Pfizer pill under development would not be a vaccine to protect people from the virus but a drug to treat people who catch the virus.
The company announced in late March that it was starting clinical trials on the oral drug.
In a news release, the company said the oral drug would work by blocking protease, a critical enzyme that the virus needs to replicate. Protease inhibitors are used in medicines to treat HIV and hepatitis C.
A coronavirus vaccine that could be taken as a pill may enter clinical trials in the second quarter of 2021. The oral vaccine is being developed by Oravax Medical, a new joint venture of the Israeli-American company Oramed and the Indian company Premas Biotech. So far, all coronavirus vaccines are injectable.