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THE RACE FOR COVID TREATMENTS

Mersad Alimoradi 21 Nov 2021
THE RACE FOR COVID TREATMENTS

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It seems like a treatment for corona is not so far fetched anymore. Pfizer, Merck, and AstraZeneca have announced three different effective treatments for COVID-19.

PAXLOVID, Pfizer’s new COVID-19 treatment, is an oral antiviral drug that aims to treat COVID in people at high risk of developing severe COVID illness. Merck’s oral COVID pill, Molnupiravir, does the same thing. AZD7422, AstraZeneca’s antibody therapy, is an injectable drug to prevent and treat COVID-19 infection.

Clinical trials for these treatments for Coronavirus infection have shown the drugs to be safe and effective. Given the positive results, Molnupiravir was approved in the UK, and is thus the world’s first ever approved treatment for corona. Pfizer and AstraZeneca have both requested Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of their treatments against COVID-19 as well.

While we wait for what the future holds, let’s take a deeper look at Merck’s Molnupiravir, Pfizer’s PAXLOVID, and AstraZeneca’s AZD7422 as new COVID treatments.

Pfizer's New COVID-19 Drug - PAXLOVID

What Is Pfizer's New Corona Drug?

PAXLOVID is Pfizer’s latest drug for treating coronavirus. PAXLOVID is an antiviral pill that combines ritonavir, medication for viral infections, and PF- 07321332.

PF-07321332 is a COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2 protease inhibitor, meaning it can stop the Coronavirus from replicating and multiplying in your body.

Ritonavir, also a protease inhibitor, helps boost the function of the PF-07321332. It inhibits the action of the enzyme responsible for breaking down the PF-07321332, allowing it to remain active for more extended periods.

CEO and chairman of Pfizer, Inc. Albert Bourla announced PAXLOVID is a new medication for COVID that can potentially reduce the severity of COVID-19 infections and prevent 9 out of 10 hospitalizations caused by the virus.

How Does PAXLOVID Work?

PAXLOVID is a specially designed SARS-CoV-2-3CL protease inhibitor that interferes with the activity of the Coronavirus. It prevents the virus from producing the proteins it needs to replicate, significantly reducing the amount of the virus in your body.

According to Dr. Eric Cioe-Peña, the Director of Global Health of Northwell Health in New York, by blocking COVID’s reproduction, PAXLOVID gives your immune system the time to prevent adverse effects of the COVID-19 infections.

A clinical study shows that PAXLOVID is effective against other types of Coronavirus, especially against the SARS-CoV-2 virus or better known as COVID-19. Researchers found it to be 89% effective in reducing the risk of hospitalization or death in high-risk adults with COVID-19.

Is Pfizer's New Corona Drug, PAXLOVID, safe?

Results from Pfizer’s drug trials reveal PAXLOVID was safe to use.

Among 1881 participants, they observed mild adverse events in 19%, and less than 2% showed severe adverse effects from Pfizer’s new COVID treatment. 2% were discontinued from the study because of adverse events.

No deaths were reported in the patients that received PAXLOVID as a treatment for COVID-19.

Based on their findings, Pfizer says there are no notable effects on PAXLOVID, and they are determined to give you safe and effective medication for COVID-19.

Who is PAXLOVID for?

Pfizer is aiming to provide PAXLOVID for at-home treatment of moderate COVID-19. It can be prescribed to reduce the severe progression of COVID-19 and the risk of developing more severe complications.

Pfizer announced that this oral antiviral therapy could reduce the severity of Coronavirus infections. They also recommend PAXLOVID for treating patients with an increased risk of developing COVID-19 and developing severe disease from COVID-19.

The promising results from the study show that PAXLOVID for the treatment of COVID is most effective when COVID-19 is detected early on.

According to Doctor Glatter, the efficacy of PAXLOVID would increase by 50% if COVID-19 patients take it within 5 days of the onset of COVID-19 symptoms.

Given the positive results, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the trial’s independent data monitoring committee have recommended Pfizer stop the enrolment of patients because of the overwhelming efficacy. Pfizer will be submitting their results to get the EUA for PAXLOVID as medication to treat COVID-19.

Merck’s New COVID-19 Drug

What is Merck’s New Corona Treatment?

Merck’s corona pill was announced on October 1st earlier this year. The antiviral drug is called Molnupiravir.  According to Merck’s interim analysis, the drug was successful in reducing hospitalization and death from corona by 50%.

The drug, developed by Merck and Ridgeback Therapeutics, was recently approved by health authorities in the United Kingdom, making it the first ever approved oral treatment specifically for COVID-19. The producers will brand the new corona pill as Lagevrio in Britain.

According to Merck, the corona drug treatment is effective against the most common variants as well.

How Does Molnupiravir work?

The new COVID pill treatment, Molnupiravir, works by altering the viral RNA - the genes. This prevents the corona virus from properly replicating in the body and causing disease.

This was shown to be an effective mechanism to prevent progression and transmission of the deadly disease.

Is Merck's New Corona Drug, Molnupiravir, safe?

According to the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the new covid pill by Merck is “safe and effective” in treating corona.

Safety results are still not available from Merck’s study.

Who is Merck’s Antiviral For?

Health authorities in the UK have recently approved Molnupiravir for use in mild to moderate cases of corona, as long as the patients have one or more critical risk factors (overweight, diabetes mellitus, elderly, cardiac illness).

It is still not clear on whether or not the corona drug will be approved for use in groups with no risk factors as well once it becomes available.

AstraZeneca's Antibody Therapy - AZD7422

What Is AstraZeneca’s Antibody Therapy?

AZD7422, AstraZeneca’s long-acting antibody (LAAB) combination, is a therapy that provides long-term protection against the SARS-CoV-2 virus or COVID-19.

AstraZeneca’s antibody therapy to treat the Coronavirus is a combination of two LAABs modified to reduce the risk of developing symptomatic COVID-19, with efficacy of almost 80%.

Modifications to the COVID antibodies have prolonged its half-life and strengthened its durability, enabling it to provide long-lasting protection against COVID-19 for up to 12 months.

When given early on after COVID-19 infection, the antibodies can cut the risk of hospitalization and death. This makes them a potential treatment for corona, and not just a preventive measure.

How Does AstraZeneca’s Corona Treatment Work?

AstraZeneca’s latest antibody therapy is a combination of two long-acting antibodies, tixagevimab (AZD8895) and cilgavimab (AZD1061), derived from patients who have had the Coronavirus.

These human monoclonal antibodies attach to specific sites on the virus to block it from binding to your host cells, effectively protecting you from the SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Unlike vaccines for COVID that help you build antibodies, AZD7442 is an antibody cocktail that injects the infection-fighting cells to prevent getting Corona. Research has proven monoclonal antibody treatment to be an effective treatment for COVID-19 patients, and results from AstraZeneca’s trials show the same results.

AstraZeneca revealed a 77% reduction in the risk of developing symptomatic COVID-19. Aside from that, the enhanced antibodies have improved durability that can protect you against COVID for up to 1 year, as compared to existing medications for treating COVID-19.

Although the AstraZeneca vaccine AZD1222 has been given temporary authorization in the UK, the AZD7442 has yet to be approved for use.

Is AstraZeneca’s Antibody Therapy Safe?

A randomized, placebo-controlled trial by AstraZeneca assessed the safety of their single-dose antibody treatment for COVID. Results from the trial showed that the antibody therapy was well-tolerated by patients.

Among the participants, no cases of severe COVID-19 or deaths related to COVID-19 were reported.

AstraZeneca states that injectable antibody therapy is effective and safe for use based on the promising results. This could mean that antibody therapy might be a new treatment for COVID, and might help end the pandemic.

Who Is AstraZeneca’s Antibody Therapy For?

AstraZeneca aims to provide AZD7422 as a prophylaxis drug for symptomatic COVID-19.

AZD7422 is effective in minimizing the risk of severe COVID-19 or death. AstraZeneca’s analysis found that the antibody therapy for COVID reduced the risk of severe illness or death by almost 70% when a single dose is given within 5 days of symptoms showing.

Mene Pangalos, Executive Vice President of BioPharmaceuticals R&D, AstraZeneca, announced AZD7422 is suitable for vulnerable populations like the immunocompromised, those at increased risk of developing SARS-CoV-2 infection, and those with an increased risk of developing severe COVID-19 illness.

AstraZeneca's antibody therapy has been proven safe and effective in patients with comorbidities and patients at risk of a poor response to active immunization.

AstraZeneca has requested the U.S. FDA for emergency use authorization of AZD7422 to prevent COVID-19.

Do I Still Need To Get Vaccinated?

With the recent developments, it’s clear that the COVID-19 pandemic will soon end or at least be downgraded to an endemic.

Although the COVID drug treatments are still awaiting emergency approval, Pfizer’s and AstraZeneca’s new treatments for COVID have shown promising results. So, should we still be vaccinated if there’s a treatment?

The answer is yes. Prevention is certainly better than a cure. You cannot know for sure how severe a corona infection will be. Despite the effectiveness of treatment, you might still be risking unfavorable outcomes, long-term complications, hospital stay, and even death due to severe disease. Moreover, not getting vaccinated means that you will be contributing to the spread of the virus and the formation of new variants.

So, despite the fact that a treatment for coronavirus might soon be a reality, the need for vaccination remains unchanged.

If you’re not already vaccinated, take the first chance you get. The best COVID-19 vaccine is the one that is available to you the soonest.

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About the Author:
Mersad is a medical doctor, author, and editor based in Germany. He's managed to publish several research papers early in his career. He is passionate about spreading medical knowledge. Thus, he spends a big portion of his time writing educational articles for everyone to learn.

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