The United States is devoting $3.2 billion to advance development of antiviral pills for COVID-19 and other dangerous viruses that could turn into pandemics.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, announced the investment Thursday at a White House briefing as part of a new “antiviral program for pandemics” to develop drugs to address symptoms caused by potentially dangerous viruses like the coronavirus.
The pills for COVID-19, which would be used to minimize symptoms after infection, are in development and could begin arriving by year’s end, pending the completion of clinical trials. The funding will speed those clinical trials and provide additional support to private sector research, development and manufacturing.
Fauci said the new program would invest in “accelerating things that are already in progress” for COVID-19 but also would work to innovate new therapies for other viruses.
“There are few treatments that exist for many of the viruses that have pandemic potential,” he said.
But he added, “vaccines clearly remain the centerpiece of our arsenal.”
The U.S. has approved one antiviral drug, remdesivir, against COVID-19 and allowed emergency use of three antibody combinations that help the immune system fight the virus. But all the drugs have to be infused at hospitals or medical clinics, and demand has been low due to these logistical hurdles.