Pfizer has announced that its facility in Ringaskiddy, Cork will play a key role in supporting the global manufacturing of its new experimental antiviral pill for Covid-19.
A trial of the antiviral pill was stopped early after it was shown to cut the risk of hospitalisation and death in adults at risk of developing severe illness from the virus by 89%.
In a statement this afternoon, the company said it had already been investing in the manufacturing of the pill in Ringaskiddy “to help bring this potential treatment to patients as soon as possible.”
It said the site has “an established and successful history of contributing to manufacturing efforts.”
The firm employs around 650 people at its Cork plant, out of a total Irish workforce of about 4,000.
The pharmaceutical company is currently in a race to bring the first easy-to-use medication against coronavirus to the US market.
Currently, all Covid-19 treatments used in the US require an IV or injection.
Competitor Merck’s Covid-19 pill is already under review at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after showing strong initial results. On Thursday, the UK became the first country to OK it.
Pfizer said it will ask the FDA and international regulators to authorise its pill as soon as possible, after independent experts recommended halting the company’s study based on the strength of its results.
Once Pfizer applies, the FDA could make a decision within weeks or months.
Researchers worldwide have been racing to find a pill against Covid-19 that can be taken at home to ease symptoms, speed recovery and reduce the crushing burden on hospitals and doctors.
Pfizer released preliminary results on Friday of its study of 775 adults.
Patients taking the company’s drug along with another antiviral had an 89% reduction in their combined rate of hospital admission or death after a month, compared with patients taking a dummy pill.
Fewer than 1% of patients taking the drug needed to be admitted to hospital and none died.
In the comparison group, 7% were admitted to hospital and there were seven deaths.
“We were hoping that we had something extraordinary, but it’s rare that you see great drugs come through with almost 90% efficacy and 100% protection for death,” said Dr Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer’s chief scientific officer, in an interview.
Study participants were unvaccinated, with mild-to-moderate Covid-19, and were considered high risk for hospital admission due to health problems such as obesity, diabetes or heart disease.
Treatment began within three to five days of initial symptoms, and lasted for five days.
Pfizer reported few details on side effects but said rates of problems were similar between the groups at about 20%.
An independent group of medical experts monitoring the trial recommended stopping it early, standard procedure when interim results show such a clear benefit.
The data has not yet been published for outside review, the normal process for vetting new medical research.
Top US health officials continue to stress that vaccination will remain the b