OAKLAND, Calif. - Doctors may soon have another powerful tool in the fight against COVID-19.
Pfizer's stock is performing well, the Monday after it released data showing that its oral medication created to treat Coronavirus - cut hospitalizations in unvaccinated patients by 89 percent.
Bay Area medical experts call those results impressive.
"The results that we see from (Pfizer's) press release are really 'knock-your-socks-off' kind of results if they are true," said UC Berkeley Public Health Professor John Swartzberg.
"Ninety percent efficacy is very high," said San Jose State Microbiology professor Mark Schwartz. "There's very few drugs that work on 90 percent of the people."
Pfizer's anti-COVID pill is really two separate pills that must be taken at the same time. One of the two oral medications is a drug that's been used for years to effectively treat viruses like HIV and hepatitis.
Schwartz said the key to those two medications are the fact that they're "protease inhibitors". That means they are able to target and shut down the part of the virus that allows it to replicate inside the body, making a person sick.
"It's a matter of finding the right drug that can have the very targeted effect, of being able to find the right molecule," Schwartz said.
It appears the combination of pills in Pfizer's medication does that.
In the pharmaceutical company's clinical trial of more then 2,000 unvaccinated adults, nearly 90 percent who took the treatment within the first 72 hours of symptoms avoided severe cases of COVID, hospitalization and death.
"To make this really work well, we're going to have to get our testing much better," said Swartzberg. "The ability of patients to communicate with their doctors, and ask, should they been tested, where do they need to go so they can get a prescription filled. You need to be able to do all that within 72 hours."
Pfizer said it could produce about 180,000 doses of their medication between now and the end of the year, with production ramping up after federal regulators give the drug emergency use authorization.
Medical experts said it could be just what is needed, to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in multiple ways:
"A two-fold strategy: get vaccinated. If you do get a break-through infection, you've got a great drug to treat it," Schwartz said. "We should be optimistic, we should not let our guard down."
"It could likely be a game changer, in terms of how we emotionally respond to it, and what it allows us to do in our world." said Swartzberg. "It will bring us a lot closer to what we consider, quote - 'normal.'"