Joe Biden US has ordered enough Pfizer anti-viral pills to treat 10 million Americans

U.S. President Joe Biden said on Tuesday he is encouraged by data released by Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) on its COVID-19 anti-viral medicine and his administration has ordered enough of the pills to treat 10 million Americans.

“Getting vaccinated and getting your booster shot remain the most important tools we have to save lives. But if this treatment is indeed authorized — and once the pills are widely available — it will mark a significant step forward in our path out of the pandemic,” Biden said in a statement.

Pfizer said Tuesday that its experimental pill to treat COVID-19 appears effective against the omicron variant.

The company also said full results of its 2,250-person study confirmed the pill’s promising early results against the virus: The drug reduced combined hospitalizations and deaths by about 89% among high-risk adults when taken shortly after initial COVID-19 symptoms.

Separate laboratory testing shows the drug retains its potency against the omicron variant, the company announced, as many experts had predicted. Pfizer tested the antiviral drug against a man-made version of a key protein that omicron uses to reproduce itself.

The updates come as COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalization are all rising again and the U.S. hovers around 800,000 pandemic deaths. The latest surge, driven by the delta variant, is accelerating due to colder weather and more indoor gatherings, even as health officials brace for the impact of the emerging omicron mutant.

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to soon rule on whether to authorize Pfizer’s pill and a competing pill from Merck, which was submitted to regulators several weeks earlier. If granted, the pills would be the first COVID-19 treatments that Americans could pickup at a pharmacy and take at home.

President Joe Biden called Pfizer’s drug “another potentially powerful tool in our fight against the virus,” in a statement Tuesday.

The U.S. government has agreed to purchase enough of Pfizer’s drug to treat 10 million people. But Pfizer executives have indicated that initial supplies will be limited, with only have enough to treat tens of thousands of people before the end of the year. By March the company hopes to ramp up production to provide millions of courses of treatment.

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