A pill that can be ingested orally at home to combat COVID-19, when the illness is first detected, could be available to the public by the end of 2021, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC on Tuesday, noting the antiviral treatment is expected to be also effective against variants of the virus.
Pfizer developed the first authorized COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. along with German drug-maker BioNTech.
The antiviral pill is part of a class of medicines called protease inhibitors and works by inhibiting an enzyme the virus needs to replicate in human cells. Protease inhibitors are also used to treat other viral pathogens such as HIV and hepatitis C.
Being able to take an oral antiviral therapeutic for SARS-CoV-2 at home would be a "game changer," Bourla said, according to CNBC.
If clinical trials go well and the Food and Drug Administration approves it, the drug could be distributed across the U.S. by the end of the year, Bourla told CNBC's "Squawk Box."
Researchers hope the medication, taken at first detection, will keep the disease from progressing and reduce the need for hospitalizations.
In addition to the drug, Pfizer is still testing its vaccine in 6-month to 11-year-old children. Vaccinating children is crucial to ending the coronavirus pandemic, public health officials and infectious disease experts say, according to CNBC.
Earlier this month, the Pfizer asked the FDA to expand its vaccine authorization to adolescents ages 12-15 after the shot was found to be 100% effective in a study. Pfizer is optimistic the FDA will approve vaccine usage for this age group.
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