Local infectious disease expert shares what Pfizer COVID-19 pill would mean for Rochester

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Pfizer said it’s asking U.S. regulators to authorize its experimental pill for COVID-19.

If approved, this will be a game-changer in the fight against the virus.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Ed Walsh with Rochester Regional said the data from Pfizer is promising and will definitely cut down that spike in hospitalizations that we’re currently seeing.

“This could be a very, very useful supplement to what our current strategy is which is complete prevention with the vaccine,” Walsh said.

Pfizer said its pill significantly cut the risk of hospitalization and death in people with mild to moderate COVID-19 infections.

“With a 90% reduction of hospitalization among the people receiving the pill compared to the placebo group this could be a really big advantage,” Walsh said.

Earlier Tuesday, Pfizer announced a plan to allow generic drug companies to produce the pill for use in 95 countries.

The Biden Administration is also expected to announce the purchase of 10 million courses of the pill.

Dr. Walsh said the drug is based on strategies that were used to treat HIV with a good safety track record.

“It’s a five-day course it’s actually two medications in one, one of them is a standard HIV medication which is combined with this new medication which enhances its effectiveness so you take it for five days, twice a day and there are 10 doses for that five day period,” Walsh said.

Since it was a single treatment course, Dr. Walsh said it’s unknown if the pill can be taken multiple times for repeated episodes and said right now this is a step forward in managing the pandemic and a return to normalcy.

“I think this is very exciting news because it offers a whole new outpatient and early strategy for treatment and if available will also require people to very quickly seek a diagnosis,” Walsh said.

Dr. Walsh said if approved, the pill is not an alternative to the COVID-19 vaccine and said you should still get your vaccine and booster shot. He said this pill is just an additional way to treat the infection.