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Oral drug for treatment of COVID-19 coming soon: Pfizer begins clinical trial

Pfizer has started Phase 1 clinical trial of a novel oral antiviral drug for treatment of COVID-19. Meanwhile, Hong Kong and Macau on Wednesday suspended the use of Pfizer/BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine after defective bottle lids were found in one batch of vials.

While anti-Covid vaccination is underway across the globe, researchers are also working tirelessly to design new drugs to treat those who are already infected by the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. US pharmaceutical company Pfizer on Tuesday announced that it has started Phase 1 clinical trial of a novel oral antiviral drug for treatment of COVID-19. The drug "PF-07321332", a SARS-CoV2-3CL protease inhibitor, has potential in vitro anti-viral activity against SARS-CoV-2, as well as activity against other coronaviruses, the company said in a statement.

The oral therapy could be prescribed at the first sign of infection, according to Mikael Dolsten, Chief Scientific Officer and President, Worldwide Research, Development and Medical of Pfizer.

Pfizer is also working on an intravenously administered anti-viral candidate, PF-07304814 for treatment of hospitalised patients. The drug is currently in Phase 1b multi-dose trial in hospitalised clinical trial participants with COVID-19. "Together, the two have the potential to create an end-to-end treatment paradigm that complements vaccination in cases where the disease still occurs," Dolsten added.

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Protease inhibitors bind to a viral enzyme (called a protease) to prevent replication of the virus. Such antiviral drugs are widely used to treat HIV and hepatitis C virus.

Use of Pfizer vaccine suspended in Hong Kong, Macau

Hong Kong and Macau on Wednesday suspended the use of Pfizer/BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine after defective bottle lids were found in one batch of vials. Both the Chinese cities took the decision to halt use of the Pfizer vaccine as a preventive and safety measure after they were informed about the issue by Fosun Pharma, the Chinese pharmaceutical company that is distributing the vaccine in China. Meanwhile, the matter is being investigated by Fosun Pharma and BioNTech, the German company that created the vaccine with Pfizer.

The defective lids were found on vaccines from batch number 210102, which had a total of 585,000 doses.

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, named BNT162b2, is recommended for people aged 16 years and older. It is a mRNA vaccine that contains both synthetic, or chemically produced, components and enzymatically produced components from naturally occurring substances such as proteins. The vaccine was first approved for use against COVID-19 in the UK in December 2020.

With inputs from agencies

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