A SECOND Covid-busting pill is on the horizon after Pfizer revealed its drug is 89 per cent effective.
The UK has already ordered enough to treat 250,000 people.
And barnstorming trial results now show it could keep nine out of 10 vulnerable patients out of hospital.
It comes just a day after British drug chiefs became the first in the world to green-light a Covid antiviral pill, approving MSD’s molnupiravir.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said: "Today’s news is a real game-changer in the global efforts to halt the devastation of this pandemic.
"These data suggest that our oral antiviral has the potential to save patients’ lives, reduce the severity of Covid-19 infections, and eliminate up to nine out of ten hospitalisations."
The pill, named PAXLOVID, works by blocking an enzyme which the virus uses to multiply, meaning it can't spread inside the body.
A trial found just three out of 389 people given the drug within three days of falling ill ended up in hospital – 0.8 per cent.
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This was nine times lower than the 27 out of 385 – seven per cent – who were given normal medicines.
And no patients given the drug died of Covid, whereas 10 died in the comparison group.
If it was given on the fourth or fifth day after symptoms started, the hospitalisation rate was one per cent compared to 6.7 per cent in a placebo group.
Regulators in the US and UK will now study the trial results to consider whether to approve the drug for people with coronavirus.
If it gets the thumbs up, people at high risk from Covid could be prescribed the six-pills-a-day drug at home in a bid to keep them out of hospital.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Incredible results from Pfizer showing their antiviral medicine cuts the risk of hospitalisation or death from Covid-19 by almost 90 per cent.
“We have procured 250,000 doses of this promising treatment on behalf of the whole UK and our independent medicines regulator, the MHRA, will now assess its safety, quality and effectiveness.
“If approved, this could be another significant weapon in our armoury to fight the virus alongside our vaccines and other treatments, including molnupiravir, which the UK was the first country in the world to approve this week.”
It comes only 24 hours after bosses at the UK's regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, approved the world's first antiviral pill.
The MHRA yesterday declared molnupiravir as "safe and effective" at slashing hospitalisations and deaths in people who have caught the killer bug.
It said: "Molnupiravir has been authorised for use in people who have mild to moderate Covid-19 and at least one risk factor for developing severe illness.
"Such risk factors include obesity, older age, diabetes or heart disease."
A first of its kind, molnupiravir works by forcing errors into the coronavirus’s genetics when it reproduces.
By doing this it cripples the virus and stops it being able to multiply as quickly, preventing it taking hold in the body and allowing the immune system to fend off Covid.
Scientists in the UK welcomed the news but said the drug would have to be targeted at the most vulnerable people.
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