Pfizer COVID-19 pill approved in Canada

Announcement comes amid soaring numbers of COVID-19 infections

Canada’s health regulator has approved a pill by Pfizer that treats the effects of COVID-19.

Health Canada authorized Paxlovid for adult patients with mild or moderate COVID-19 who are also at high risk of becoming more seriously ill. Health Canada did not authorize it for use on teenagers or on patients who are already hospitalized because of COVID-19.

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The agency’s announcement Monday comes amid soaring numbers of infections because of the highly transmissible omicron variant.

Paxlovid, a Pfizer's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pill, is seen manufactured in Freiburg, Germany, in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters on November 16, 2021.  (Pfizer/Handout via REUTERS)

Late last month, U.S. health regulators authorized the pill that patients will be able to take at home to ward off the worst effects of the virus. At the time, Pfizer said it had 180,000 treatment courses available worldwide, with roughly 60,000 to 70,000 allocated to the U.S. The company said it expected to have 250,000 available in the U.S. by the end of January.

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Dr. Supriya Sharma, chief medical adviser with Health Canada, said the Pfizer pill comes at a "crucial time in the pandemic as we’re faced with new variants." The drug could help alleviate pressure on health-care systems by decreasing the number of people who would require hospitalization, but health officials noted on a conference call Monday that supply would be an issue early on.

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Sharma said clinical trials showed treatment with Paxlovid reduced the risk of hospitalization and death caused by COVID-19 by 89% when the medications were started within three days of the beginning of symptoms, and by 85% when started within five days.