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Drugmaker Pfizer starts clinical trial for COVID-19 antiviral drug

"It will be critical to have access to therapeutic options both now and beyond the pandemic," company said in news release

BEAUMONT, Texas — Drugmaker Pfizer announced they have started Phase I of a U.S. trial of an oral COVID-19 antiviral therapy. 

Pfizer's oral clinical candidate, PF-07321332, is a protease inhibitor that the company says has demonstrated anti-viral activity against the virus. 

“Tackling the COVID-19 pandemic requires both prevention via vaccine and targeted treatment for those who contract the virus," said Mikael Dolsten, MD, PhD., Chief Scientific Officer and President, Worldwide Research, Development and Medical of Pfizer. "Given the way that SARS-CoV-2 is mutating and the continued global impact of COVID-19, it appears likely that it will be critical to have access to therapeutic options both now and beyond the pandemic."

Protease inhibitors have a history at treating other viral pathogens such as HIV and hepatitis C, the company said. 

“Together, the two (oral and intravenous candidates) have the potential to create an end-to-end treatment paradigm that complements vaccination in cases where disease still occurs,” Pfizer’s Chief Medical Officer Mikael Dolsten said in a statement Tuesday.

Other drugmakers, including rivals Merck & Ridgeback Bio, have oral antiviral therapies in mid-stage trials.

Pfizer  is also studying an intravenously administered antiviral candidate in an early-stage trial in hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

These antiviral drugs are in addition to the three approved vaccines approved for emergency authorization in the U.S. Pfizer is among the first to receive authorization by the FDA for their COVID-19 vaccine, which is currently being distributed across the country along with Moderna & Johnson and Johnson's vaccine. 

Drugmaker AstraZeneca is also vying for emergency use authorization from the FDA.