Pfizer's experimental oral drug to treat COVID-19 at the first sign of illness could be available by the end of the year, CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC on Tuesday.
The company, which developed the first authorized COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. with German drugmaker BioNTech, began in March an early stage clinical trial testing a new antiviral therapy for the disease. The drug is part of a class of medicines called protease inhibitors and works by inhibiting an enzyme that the virus needs to replicate in human cells.
Protease inhibitors are used to treat other viral pathogens such as HIV and hepatitis C.
If clinical trials go well and the Food and Drug Administration approves it, the drug could be distributed across the U.S. by the end of the year, Bourla told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
Health experts say the drug, taken by mouth, could be a game changer because people newly infected with the virus could use it outside of hospitals. Researchers hope the medication will keep the disease from progressing and prevent hospital trips.
In addition to the drug, Pfizer is still testing its vaccine in 6-month to 11-year-old children. Vaccinating children is crucial to ending the coronavirus pandemic, public health officials and infectious disease experts say.
Earlier this month, the company asked the FDA to expand its vaccine authorization to adolescents ages 12 to 15 after the shot was found to be 100% effective in a study.
Bourla told CNBC on Tuesday he is “very optimistic” that the FDA will approve use of the shot in adolescents.
This story first appeared on CNBC.com.