Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) announced that the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) issued a positive opinion recommending the conditional marketing authorization (CMA) of Pfizer’s PAXLOVID™ (nirmatrelvir [PF-07321332] tablets and ritonavir tablets) for the treatment of COVID-19 in adults who do not require supplemental oxygen and who are at increased risk for progressing to severe COVID-19.
“This expression of confidence in PAXLOVID comes at a critical moment as Europe addresses the ongoing challenges of the pandemic and as infection rates are on the rise in many countries across the globe,” said Albert Bourla, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Pfizer. “We are proud to have a strong manufacturing footprint in Europe, which will help support the production of up to 120 million courses of PAXLOVID globally. Pending conditional marketing authorization from the European Commission, we will continue working closely with EU Member State governments to ensure this important treatment can be made available to patients across Europe as quickly as possible.”
The CHMP based its positive opinion on the scientific evidence supporting PAXLOVID, including data from the Phase 2/3 EPIC-HR (Evaluation of Protease Inhibition for COVID-19 in High-Risk Patients) trial, which enrolled non-hospitalized adults aged 18 and older with confirmed COVID-19 who are at increased risk of progressing to severe illness. The data showed that PAXLOVID reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 89% (within three days of symptom onset) and 88% (within five days of symptom onset) compared to placebo, with no deaths observed in the treatment group. Treatment-emergent adverse events were comparable between PAXLOVID (23%) and placebo (24%), most of which were mild in intensity. The data have been submitted to a peer-reviewed publication. Additional Phase 2/3 clinical trials are ongoing in adults at standard risk (i.e., low risk of hospitalization or death) of progressing to severe illness, and in those who have been exposed to the virus through household contacts.
PAXLOVID is currently approved or authorized for emergency use in more than 10 countries across the globe. In December, the CHMP issued advice under Article 5(3) of Regulation 726/2004 to support authorities of European Union (EU) Member States regarding the potential supply and use of PAXLOVID prior to EU conditional marketing authorization.
Our Commitment to Equitable Access
Pfizer is committed to working toward equitable access to PAXLOVID for all people, aiming to deliver safe and effective antiviral therapeutics as soon as possible and at an affordable price. During the pandemic, Pfizer will offer its oral therapy through a tiered pricing approach, pending country authorization or approval, based on the income level of each country to promote equity of access across the globe. High and upper-middle income countries will pay more than lower income countries.
Pfizer continues to invest to support the manufacturing and distribution of PAXLOVID, including exploring potential contract manufacturing options. As a result of these efforts, Pfizer has raised its production projections, with the potential ability to produce up to 120 million courses of treatment by the end of 2022.
The company has entered into agreements with multiple countries and has initiated bilateral outreach to more than 100 countries around the world. Additionally, Pfizer has signed a voluntary license agreement with the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) for its oral treatment to help expand access, pending country regulatory authorization or approval, in 95 low- and middle-income countries that account for approximately 53% of the world’s population.
About PAXLOVID™ (nirmatrelvir [PF-07321332] tablets and ritonavir tablets)
PAXLOVID is a SARS-CoV-2 main protease (Mpro) inhibitor (also known as SARS-CoV2 3CL protease inhibitor) therapy. It was developed to be administered orally so that it can be prescribed at the first sign of infection or, pending clinical success of the rest of the EPIC development program and subject to regulatory authorization, at first awareness of an exposure – potentially helping patients avoid severe illness (which can lead to hospitalization and death) or avoid disease development following contact with a household member who contracts COVID-19. Nirmatrelvir [PF-07321332], which originated in Pfizer laboratories, is designed to block the activity of the Mpro, an enzyme that the coronavirus needs to replicate. Co-administration with a low dose of ritonavir helps slow the metabolism, or breakdown, of nirmatrelvir in order for it to remain active in the body for longer periods of time at higher concentrations to help combat the virus.
Nirmatrelvir is designed to inhibit viral replication at a stage known as proteolysis, which occurs before viral RNA replication. In preclinical studies, nirmatrelvir did not demonstrate evidence of mutagenic DNA interactions.
Current variants of concern can be resistant to treatments that work by binding to the spike protein found on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. PAXLOVID, however, works intracellularly by binding to the highly conserved Mpro of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to inhibit viral replication. Nirmatrelvir has shown consistent in vitro antiviral activity against earlier and current variants of concern (i.e., Alpha, Beta, Delta, Gamma, Lambda, Mu, and Omicron).
PAXLOVID is administered at a dose of 300 mg (two 150 mg tablets) of nirmatrelvir with one 100 mg tablet of ritonavir, given twice-daily for five days. One carton contains five blister packs of PAXLOVID, as co-packaged nirmatrelvir tablets with ritonavir tablets, providing all required doses for a full five-day treatment course.
About the EPIC Development Program
The EPIC (Evaluation of Protease Inhibition for COVID-19) Phase 2/3 development program for PAXLOVID consists of three clinical trials spanning a broad spectrum of patients, including adults who have been exposed to the virus through household contacts, as well as adults at both standard risk and high risk of progressing to severe illness.
In July 2021, Pfizer initiated the first of these trials, known as EPIC-HR, a randomized, double-blind study of non-hospitalized adults with COVID-19, who are at high risk of progressing to severe illness. At the recommendation of an independent Data Monitoring Committee and in consultation with the U.S. FDA, Pfizer ceased further enrollment into the study in early November 2021 due to the overwhelming efficacy demonstrated in these results. Findings from the EPIC-HR final analysis have been submitted to a peer-reviewed journal for publication.
In August 2021, Pfizer began the Phase 2/3 EPIC-SR (Evaluation of Protease Inhibition for COVID-19 in Standard-Risk Patients), to evaluate efficacy and safety in adults with a confirmed diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2 infection who are at standard risk (i.e., low risk of hospitalization or death). EPIC-SR includes a cohort of vaccinated adults who have an acute breakthrough symptomatic COVID-19 infection and who have risk factors for severe illness. Interim data from this study have been reported. In September, Pfizer initiated the Phase 2/3 EPIC-PEP (Evaluation of Protease Inhibition for COVID-19 in Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) to evaluate efficacy and safety in adults exposed to SARS-CoV-2 by a household member. These trials are ongoing.
For more information on the EPIC Phase 2/3 clinical trials for PAXLOVID, visit clinicaltrials.gov
About the EPIC-HR Final Results
In the final analysis of the primary endpoint from all patients enrolled in EPIC-HR, an 89% reduction in COVID-19-related hospitalization or death from any cause compared to placebo in patients treated within three days of symptom onset was observed, consistent with the interim analysis. In addition, a consistent safety profile was observed.
0.7% of patients who received PAXLOVID were hospitalized through Day 28 following randomization (5/697 hospitalized with no deaths), compared to 6.5% of patients who received placebo and were hospitalized or died (44/682 hospitalized with 9 subsequent deaths). The statistical significance of these results was high (p<0.0001). In a secondary endpoint, PAXLOVID reduced the risk of hospitalization or death for any cause by 88% compared to placebo in patients treated within five days of symptom onset; 0.8% of patients who received PAXLOVID were hospitalized or died through Day 28 following randomization (8/1039 hospitalized with no deaths), compared to 6.3% of patients who received placebo (66/1046 hospitalized with 12 subsequent deaths), with high statistical significance (p<0.0001). Relative risk reduction was 94% in patients 65 years of age or older, one of the populations at highest risk for hospitalization or death; 1.1% of patients who received PAXLOVID were hospitalized through Day 28 (1/94 hospitalized with no deaths), compared to 16.3% of patients who received placebo (16/98 hospitalized with 6 deaths), with high statistical significance (p<0.0001). In the overall study population through Day 28, no deaths were reported in patients who received PAXLOVID as compared to 12 (1.2%) deaths in patients who received placebo.
In the EPIC-HR trial, in a secondary endpoint, SARS-CoV-2 viral load at baseline and Day 5 have been evaluated for 499 patients. After accounting for baseline viral load, geographic region, and serology status, PAXLOVID reduced viral load by approximately 10-fold relative to placebo, indicating robust activity against SARS-CoV-2 and representing the strongest viral load reduction reported to date for an oral COVID-19 agent.
Treatment-emergent adverse events were comparable between PAXLOVID (23%) and placebo (24%), most of which were mild in intensity. Fewer serious adverse events (1.6% vs. 6.6%) and discontinuation of study drug due to adverse events (2.1% vs. 4.2%) were observed in patients dosed with PAXLOVID, compared to placebo, respectively.
All other secondary endpoints for this study, which are available on clinicaltrials.gov (NCT04960202) and EudraCT (2021-002895-38), were not yet available for this review.
About Pfizer: Breakthroughs That Change Patients’ Lives
At Pfizer, we apply science and our global resources to bring therapies to people that extend and significantly improve their lives. We strive to set the standard for quality, safety and value in the discovery, development and manufacture of health care products, including innovative medicines and vaccines. Every day, Pfizer colleagues work across developed and emerging markets to advance wellness, prevention, treatments and cures that challenge the most feared diseases of our time. Consistent with our responsibility as one of the world’s premier innovative biopharmaceutical companies, we collaborate with health care providers, governments and local communities to support and expand access to reliable, affordable health care around the world. For more than 170 years, we have worked to make a difference for all who rely on us.