Pfizer says its antiviral pill slashes risk of severe COVID-19 by 89 percent

Pfizer says its antiviral pill slashes risk of severe COVID-19 by 89 percent
Pfizer announced Friday it will soon ask the US Food and Drug Administration and international regulators to authorize its pill, which is taken twice a day for five days. (AP)
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Updated 05 November 2021

Pfizer says its antiviral pill slashes risk of severe COVID-19 by 89 percent

Pfizer says its antiviral pill slashes risk of severe COVID-19 by 89 percent
  • Pfizer's pill, with the brand name Paxlovid, could secure U.S. regulatory approval by the end of the year
  • President Joe Biden said the U.S. government has secured millions of doses of the Pfizer drug

DUBAI: Pfizer Inc’s experimental antiviral pill to treat COVID-19 was shown to cut by 89 percent the chances of hospitalization or death for adults at risk of developing severe disease, the company said on Friday.
It also comes as an offer to what could be a promising new weapon in the fight against the pandemic.
The trial’s results suggest that the oral drug surpasses Merck & Co. Inc’s pill, molnupiravir, which was shown last month to halve the risk of dying or being hospitalized for COVID-19 patients at high risk of serious illness.
Pfizer’s pill, with the brand name Paxlovid, could secure US regulatory approval by the end of the year. The Pfizer trial was stopped early due to its high success rate. Full trial data is not yet available from either company.
President Joe Biden said the US government has secured millions of doses of the Pfizer drug.
“If authorized by the FDA we may soon have pills that treat the virus in those who become infected,” Biden said. “The therapy would be another tool in our toolbox to protect people from the worst outcomes of COVID.”
Shares in Pfizer, which also makes one of the mostly widely used COVID-19 vaccines, were up 9 percent to $47.82, while Merck’s were down 9.3 percent to $82.09. Shares of vaccine makers took a hit, with Moderna Inc, Pfizer’s German partner BioNTech SE and Novavax all down 13-21 percent.
The pill is given in combination with an older antiviral called ritonavir. The treatment consists of three pills given twice daily. It has been in development for nearly two years.
Pfizer is in discussions with 90 countries over supply contracts for its pill, Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla said in an interview.
Bourla said Pfizer expects to price its treatment close to where Merck has priced its pill. Merck’s US contract price for its pill is around $700 for a five-day course of therapy.
Even with the potential offered by the Pfizer and Merck pills, preventing COVID-19 infections through broad use of vaccines remains the best way to control a pandemic that has killed more than 5 million people worldwide, including more than 750,000 in the United States, according to infectious disease experts.
“Vaccines are going to be the most effective and reliable tool that we have in this pandemic,” said Dr. Grace Lee, professor of pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine. “These oral medications are going to augment our ability to really reduce the risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death, which is huge, but it won’t prevent infection.”
While more than 7 billion vaccine doses have been administered worldwide, that has covered only about half the world’s people. In the United States, 58 percent of all people, including 70 percent of adults, are fully vaccinated. There are more than 400,000 new COVID-19 cases daily worldwide, with infections rising in 50 countries.
Mizuho analyst Vamil Divan forecast a “very minor impact” from the Pfizer drug on vaccination among people who do not want the vaccine or a booster shot as recommended by US health regulators.
“I think there’s a small percentage of people that may decide not to get vaccinated, now that there are good treatment options,” Divan said.
Pfizer said it plans to submit interim trial results for its pill to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before the US Thanksgiving holiday on Nov. 25.
The company said it expects to manufacture 180,000 treatment courses by the end of this year and at least 50 million courses by the end of next year, including 21 million in the first half of 2022.
Antivirals need to be given as early as possible, before an infection takes hold, to be most effective.
The planned analysis of 1,219 patients in Pfizer’s study examined hospitalizations or deaths among people diagnosed with mild to moderate COVID-19 with at least one risk factor for developing severe disease, such as obesity or older age.
Among those given Pfizer’s drug within three days of symptom onset, the pill lowered the chances of hospitalization or death for adults at risk of developing severe COVID-19 by 89 percent compared to patients who received a placebo. Among these patients, 0.8 percent were hospitalized and none died by 28 days after treatment, compared to a 7 percent hospitalization rate and seven deaths in the placebo group.
Rates were similar for patients treated within five days of symptoms: 1 percent of the treatment group was hospitalized, compared to 6.7 percent for the placebo group, which included 10 deaths. Pfizer said that works out to being 85 percent effective at preventing hospitalization or death.
An FDA panel of outside experts is scheduled to meet Nov. 30 to discuss Merck’s pill, which was approved by British regulators https://www.reuters.com/business/health care-pharmaceuticals/britain-approves-mercks-oral-covid-19-pill-2021-11-04 in a world first on Thursday. Pfizer said it did not know if Paxlovid would be reviewed at that meeting.
Pfizer did not detail side any effects but said adverse events happened in about 20 percent of both treatment and placebo patients. Possible side effects include nausea and diarrhea.
Pfizer is holding discussions about a license for generic manufacturing of the pill for low-income countries, Unitaid’s Medicines Patent Pool said in a statement.


Bangladesh floods recede but millions still marooned

Bangladesh floods recede but millions still marooned
Updated 27 sec ago

Bangladesh floods recede but millions still marooned

Bangladesh floods recede but millions still marooned
  • Floods are a regular menace to millions of people in low-lying Bangladesh and neighboring northeast India
SUNAMGANJ , Bangladesh: North-east Bangladesh’s worst floods in nearly 20 years began receding on Sunday, but rescue workers were struggling to help millions marooned by extreme weather across the region that has killed around 60 people.
Floods are a regular menace to millions of people in low-lying Bangladesh and neighboring northeast India, but many experts say that climate change is increasing the frequency, ferocity and unpredictability.
In the past week after heavy rains in India, floodwater breached a major embankment in Bangladesh’s Sylhet region, affecting around two million people, swamping dozens of villages and killing at least 10.
Arifuzzman Bhuiyan, head of the state-run Flood Forecasting and Warning Center, said that the floods had hit some 70 percent of Sylhet district and about 60 percent of neighboring Sunamganj.
“It is one of the worst floods in the region,” he said.
But he said the situation would improve further in the next few days after heavy rains stopped.
Police said that a scuffle broke out in the rural town of Companyganj on Saturday as authorities stepped up relief operations for the roughly two million people hit.
“There were more flood-affected people than the estimated relief packs. At one point everyone started to snatch relief goods when police dispersed the crowd,” local police chief Sukanto Chakrobarti said.
Mozibur Rahman, head of Sylhet district, said that the embankment washed away along the Bangladesh-India border was yet to be repaired.
“It is impossible to fix the embankment unless waterflow from India plunges. The inundation scenario in Sylhet city has improved. But outer towns are still underwater,” Rahman said.
“We are trying to send relief and have opened hundreds of shelters for the flood-hit people.”
Mofizul Islam, a resident of Sylhet city where floodwaters were slowly subsiding, said that he fell off his motorbike after he hit a pothole hidden under the water on Sunday.
“It is very risky for the people who are going out today,” Islam said.
Over the border in India, around 50 people have been killed in days of flooding, landslides and thunderstorms, according to local disaster management authorities.
In the north-eastern state of Assam, authorities said on Sunday that the death toll from the floods had reached 18.
According to the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA), almost 3,250 villages were partially or fully submerged.
ASDMA officials said the situation had improved slightly but that it remained critical in some districts.
According to their estimate, more than 92,000 people were in relief camps.
The state and national rescue forces, helped by the army, were working to rescue people from villages and distribute food, clean drinking water and other essentials, as well as to clear roads.
West of Assam, at least 33 people were killed in Bihar state in thunderstorms on Thursday.
Bihar, in common with other parts of northern India and Pakistan, has been suffering an intense heatwave, with temperatures reaching 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).

Shanghai partly resumes public transport in patchy reopening

Shanghai partly resumes public transport in patchy reopening
Updated 45 min 30 sec ago

Shanghai partly resumes public transport in patchy reopening

Shanghai partly resumes public transport in patchy reopening
  • China’s largest city has been almost entirely locked down since April
  • Four of the city’s 20 subway lines restarted Sunday along with some road transport

SHANGHAI: Shanghai partially restarted public transport Sunday and set out new classifications for COVID-19 risk areas, signaling a gradual reopening after nearly two months sealed off from the outside world.
China’s largest city has been almost entirely locked down since April, when it became the epicenter of the country’s worst coronavirus outbreak since the early days of the pandemic.
Unlike other major economies, Beijing has dug in its heels on a strict zero COVID-19 approach that relies on stamping out clusters as they emerge, though this has become increasingly difficult with the infectious omicron variant.
But as new infections have slowed, Shanghai has cautiously eased restrictions, with some factories resuming operations and residents in lower-risk areas allowed to venture outdoors.
Four of the city’s 20 subway lines restarted Sunday along with some road transport, with officials announcing last week that it would provide a “basic network covering all central urban areas.”
Those who take public transport will have to show a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours of their journey and have a “normal temperature,” they added Saturday.
Shanghai will also classify areas as high, medium or low-risk after May 31, city health official Zhao Dandan told a press briefing on Sunday.
Districts with 10 or more reported COVID-19 cases — or at least two community infections — will be considered “high-risk” while areas with no positive cases for 14 days will be deemed “low-risk,” Zhao said.
Medium or high-risk areas face lockdowns of two weeks.
The new system appears to set the stage for a degree of movement comparable to other cities, a shift from tough current measures in which even residents of lower risk areas have faced tight restrictions.
But despite broader attempts to ease those restrictions, the city’s central Jing’an district was back under lockdown on Sunday, according to an official notice.
Jing’an will undergo three consecutive rounds of mass COVID-19 testing from Sunday and residents are not to leave their homes during this period, a WeChat notice said.
“Exit permits that have been issued will be suspended,” the notice added Saturday, while assuring residents that “victory is not far away.”
The city of 25 million residents reported more than 600 COVID cases on Sunday, 570 of them asymptomatic, according to National Health Commission data.
But restrictions continued in other Chinese cities with COVID-19 cases, including the capital Beijing, which has already banned dining out and forced millions to work from home.
As of Saturday, nearly 5,000 people in Beijing’s Nanxinyuan residential compound had been relocated to quarantine hotels after 26 new infections were discovered in recent days, state media reported.
Fears have run high that the city may take a similar approach to Shanghai, where the lockdown has denied many adequate access to food and medical care.


Biden lands in Japan on second leg of Asia trip

Biden lands in Japan on second leg of Asia trip
Updated 22 May 2022

Biden lands in Japan on second leg of Asia trip

Biden lands in Japan on second leg of Asia trip
  • US president to meet with Japan’s prime minister and unveil a US-led trade initiative for the region on Monday

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan: President Joe Biden landed in Japan on Sunday for the second leg of a trip to reinforce US alliances in Asia.
Biden, making his first trip to Asia as president, arrived at Yokota Air Base outside Tokyo, and will meet with Japan’s prime minister and unveil a US-led trade initiative for the region on Monday, before joining a summit of the Quad regional grouping.


UK PM Johnson has not intervened in ‘partygate’ report, education minister says

UK PM Johnson has not intervened in ‘partygate’ report, education minister says
Updated 22 May 2022

UK PM Johnson has not intervened in ‘partygate’ report, education minister says

UK PM Johnson has not intervened in ‘partygate’ report, education minister says
  • The Labour Party has called on Johnson to explain why he met senior civil servant Sue Gray to discuss her final report into parties held at Downing Street

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has not intervened in an internal investigation into breaches of COVID-19 rules at his Downing Street office and residence, education minister Nadhim Zahawi said on Sunday.
Britain’s opposition Labour Party has called on Johnson to explain why he met senior civil servant Sue Gray to discuss publication of her final report into parties held at Johnson’s Downing Street office during COVID-19 lockdowns, which is expected next week.
“The Prime Minister has never intervened in the investigation that Sue Gray conducted,” Zahawi told Sky News, adding that he could not say who had called the meeting.
Johnson has faced widespread calls from opposition politicians and some in his own party for him to resign over the “partygate” scandal after it emerged that he and officials had broken stringent lockdown laws enacted by his government.


Global powerhouses head to sunny Davos as WEF returns in person

Global powerhouses head to sunny Davos as WEF returns in person
Updated 22 May 2022

Global powerhouses head to sunny Davos as WEF returns in person

Global powerhouses head to sunny Davos as WEF returns in person
  • Among the main topics of the conference is the Russia-Ukraine war

DAVOS: Business, tech and political leaders from around the world will reconvene in person for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic on Sunday for the start of the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in a sunny, springtime Davos.

Delegates from all backgrounds will come together to discuss climate, tech and geopolitical issues as the world continues to reel from the devastating consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The annual meeting is the first summit that brings global leaders together in this new situation characterized by an emerging multipolar world as a result of the pandemic and war,” said Klaus Schwab, the WEF’s founder and executive chairman.

Among the main topics of the conference is the Russia-Ukraine war, with a special, virtual address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky set to take place. Similarly, other panels will tackle subjects such as refugee migration, public opinion and outlook to the future.

It is no surprise that with so many high-level figures from all over the world coming together to meet in a single location that sideline conversations tackling the world’s biggest problems will take place.

Much is riding on the panel-packed week of business card-passing and buzzword-throwing as the world awaits its outcome.