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WASHINGTON: The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized Pfizer’s Covid pill for high-risk people aged 12 and over, a major milestone in the pandemic that will allow millions to access the treatment.

“Today’s authorization introduces the first treatment for Covid-19 that is in the form of a pill that is taken orally — a major step forward in the fight against this global pandemic,” said FDA scientist Patrizia Cavazzoni.

Pfizer’s treatment, called Paxlovid, is a combination of two pills taken over five days that was shown in a clinical trial of 2,200 people to be safe and reduced the risk of hospitalizations and deaths among at-risk people by 88 percent.

UK buys millions of Covid pills, cuts isolation period

In an unusual move, the FDA did not convene its customary panel of independent experts to review in depth data surrounding Pfizer’s pill ahead of authorization. Pfizer’s treatment has previously been authorized in the European Union. The US has already paid for 10 million courses. The authorization comes as cases are surging across the United States, driven by Omicron, the most infectious variant seen to date.

The highly-mutated variant is better able to bypass immunity conferred by prior infection, and health authorities are urging the public to get boosted with mRNA vaccines in order to restore a higher degree of protection.

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