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Pfizer CEO: Pill for treating COVID could be available by end of 2021

Oral treatment seeks to block enzyme the coronavirus needs in order to replicate in human cells

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla talks during a press conference after a visit to oversee the production of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine at the factory of US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, in Puurs, Belgium, on April 23, 2021. (JOHN THYS / POOL / AFP)
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla talks during a press conference after a visit to oversee the production of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine at the factory of US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, in Puurs, Belgium, on April 23, 2021. (JOHN THYS / POOL / AFP)

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said Tuesday that the US pharma firm’s planned take-at-home pill for treating COVID-19 could be available by the end of 2021.

“If all goes well and we implement the same speed that we did so far, and if regulators do the same, and they are, I hope that by the end of the year,” he told CNBC of his projected timeline.

Bourla also told the network that he was optimistic that the US Food and Drug Administration would approve Pfizer’s vaccine for children 15 and under in the near future.

Thus far, the only oral COVID-19 treatment granted full approval by the FDA has been remdesivir, an antiviral agent.

Pfizer’s pill is a protease inhibitor that seeks to block an enzyme that the coronavirus needs in order to replicate in human cells. Last week, The Daily Telegraph reported that dozens of volunteers have begun participation in initial trials for the pill.

The trial is being held at two Pfizer locations, one in the US and the other in Belgium, and will involve up to 60 volunteers age 18-60.

The trial will be split into three phases spread over 145 days, with an extra 28 days tacked on the end for “screening and dosing,” according to the report, and will include several overnight stays for the participants.

Pfizer, together with its partner BioNTech, has already produced a COVID-19 vaccine that has proved to be over 95 percent effective and has been at the center of Israel’s mass inoculation drive. So far, over half of Israel’s population has received both required doses of the vaccine, making the Jewish state a world leader in per capita inoculations.

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