Although the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is a fairly new one, Pfizer says that their newly-approved oral medication, Paxlovid, is effective against this particular strain of the virus.
Pfizer has conducted at least three separate studies on the effectiveness of the new medication against the Omicron strain. While the studies remain unpublished as of this writing, the results speak volumes regarding treating the COVID-19 virus.
On Tuesday, Pfizer said that testing conducted in a lab showed that the recently FDA-approved Paxlovid does show promise in treating the latest variant of COVID-19. This is positive news in the face of previous treatments for the COVID-19 virus, as science has previously – often unsuccessfully – attempted to keep up with ever-changing variants of the disease.
The main component of the Paxlovid medication is nirmatrelvir, and scientists at Pfizer conducted three separate studies to determine whether this particular ingredient had any effect on the Omicron variant. In order to do this, scientists conducting the first study tested nirmatrelvir against the Mpro enzyme, which is the enzyme the virus needs in order to replicate. This chief ingredient was proven to be an effective inhibitor, not only in the initial study, but in the two subsequent studies as well.
During the second study, scientists tested the ingredient against omicron in a cell-based assay. The researchers measured the reduction of viral load using a polymerase chain reaction analysis. Once again, nirmatrelvir proved effective.
The third Pfizer study took place at the Icahn School of Medicine. The third test was an immunofluorescence-based assay which measured the effectiveness of the medication against omicron and other “variants of concern.” During this test, variants were tested in two cell lines. Pfizer utilized these results as a confirmation of their two previous studies, which showed that nirmatrelvir proved effective against omicron as well as other strains.
Pfizer also said that, to date, the Paxlovid medication is the only approved oral medication available that has been shown to be effective against the omicron variant of COVID-19.
Further, Pfizer shared that these studies suggest that Paxlovid has the potential to maintain the necessary plasma concentrations necessary to prevent Omicron from replicating in cells. In fact, Paxlovid is able to maintain plasma levels that are much higher than what is needed to do this.
Variants of COVID-19 have previously been resistant to treatment because they are able to bind the spike protein of the COVID-19 virus. Paxlovid is different because it works inside cells to bind the Mpro of the virus.
Paxlovid’s clinical tests show that the medication is able to prevent hospitalizations in up to ninety percent of cases, particularly in those who are considered high-risk cases. However, the patient must receive these treatments within five days of the beginning of symptoms.
Paxlovid was approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration, provided the patient fit “high-risk” criteria.