On Thursday, at a White House briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious diseases expert said that a new program by the U.S. will invest $3.2 billion to accelerate the process of developing pills that can treat viruses such as COVID-19 and many more dangerous viruses.
He mentioned that there were few treatments for many viruses that have the potential of developing into a pandemic. It would be good to be better prepared in the future if viruses such as Ebola, Dengue, West Nile or Middle East respiratory syndrome become widespread. But he reiterated that vaccines were the “centerpiece of our arsenal.”
To date, the U.S. has allowed the use of remdesivir, an anti-viral drug to treat COVID-19. It has also approved emergency use of three antibody combinations that makes the body’s immune system fight against the virus. These drugs have to be taken under medical supervision. However, health experts feel that a pill that can be taken patients who exhibit initial symptoms would be both convenient and helpful.
Initial research to make pills by drug makers has started but results will take several months. By disbursing additional funds, the government hopes to accelerate the development and manufacturing process of the private pharma involved in this endeavor.
Merck has been experimenting with a drug called molnupiravir. Large study results are expected by fall. Initial results indicate that the drug could reduce the risk of hospitalization, if used early in the infectious stage. It works by preventing the coronavirus from replicating easily. However, it had no effect on those who had already been hospitalized due to COVID-19.
Merck is not the only pharmaceutical company to research on antiviral pills. Pfizer, Roche, and AstraZeneca are three other large companies that are conducted research and looking to manufacture a pop in pill.
The latest round of funding by the US government for antiviral pills is not only expected to accelerate research but also act as a stockpile as scientists have said that there’s no timeline on when COVID-19 will no longer be a part of the infections that affect humans. However, they hope that vaccines, pills, and booster shots will weaken the virus to make it more manageable in future.