Could a Simple Pill Beat COVID-19? Pfizer May Have a “Cure” by the End of the Year
While the focus has been largely on vaccines, you might have also heard Pfizer is trialing a pill to treat COVID-19.
It almost sounds too good to be true. Indeed, the results are very preliminary — but it’s a promising approach.
Where most antiviral agents we’ve tried to treat COVID-19 target the inflammatory and immune response resulting from infection, Pfizer’s pill directly targets SARS-CoV-2 — the virus itself.
Mounting our defense against the virus
Much of the illness associated with COVID-19 is due to the intense inflammatory and immune response that can occur with an infection. The most successful treatments so far have targeted this overzealous immune response.
Taken early in the disease, the inhaled corticosteroid budesonide has been shown to reduce the development of more severe disease.
In people hospitalised with COVID-19 requiring oxygen, the oral corticosteroid dexamethasone reduces the likelihood of death.
In the most severe cases — COVID patients admitted to ICU — the anti-inflammatory tocilizumab administered intravenously gives a person a better chance of survival.
But these treatments don’t target SARS-CoV-2 itself; just the consequences of infection. Directly targeting the virus has proven to be more difficult.