AMSTERDAM (AP) – The European Union regulator said it has begun evaluating the coronavirus pill manufactured by Pfizer Inc. to see if it can be used in an emergency before it is officially approved.
In a statement Friday, the European Medicines Agency said it is studying data on the effectiveness of Pfizer antiviral pills when given to people infected with COVID-19 who are not yet hospitalized but at risk of developing serious illness.
The first results show that Pfizer pills reduce the risk of hospitalization or death compared to people who received a pacifier when they were treated for three to five days after developing COVID-19 symptoms, the agency said.
While a more comprehensive assessment is likely to begin shortly, “this ongoing review will provide EU-wide guidelines as soon as possible so that they can be used by national authorities wishing to make evidence-based decisions about early drug use,” the regulator said.
Europe is at the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a spike in incidence in many countries amid low vaccination rates. On Friday, Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg announced that nationwide isolation would be introduced in the country and that COVID-19 vaccination would become mandatory by next year.
Earlier this month, Pfizer said its pill reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by up to 90%. The company provided little detail on side effects, but reported that the incidence of problems in the groups was similar at around 20%.
An independent panel of medical experts overseeing the study recommended that the study be discontinued prematurely when intermediate results show such clear benefit. The data has not yet been released for external review, which is a common process for validating new medical research.
Most treatments for COVID-19 require intravenous or injection. Merck’s COVID-19 rival tablet has already been approved by the UK, and the Pfizer tablet is under FDA review.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic last year, researchers around the world have been rushing to find a COVID-19 treatment pill that can be taken at home to relieve symptoms, speed up recovery, and keep people from hospitalization.
Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic