The US is allocating $3.2 billion to the development of antiviral drugs for COVID-19 and other harmful viruses that have the potential to turn into pandemics. The country's top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci declared the investment on Thursday at a White House briefing. This is part of a new "antiviral program for pandemics," that aims to produce drugs that will address symptoms initiated by potentially harmful viruses like the coronavirus.
The new program will invest in speeding up things that are already in progress for the novel coronavirus and will also work on probable treatments for other viruses. "There are few treatments that exist for many of the viruses that have pandemic potential," said Fauci. The list includes dengue, Ebola, West Nile, and Middle East respiratory syndrome, reported AP.
Minimizing Symptoms after Infection
The drugs are meant to minimize symptoms following infection. They are in development and could start arriving by the end of the year. The completion of clinical trials is still pending.
Fauci said the new program will also work to innovate new therapies for other viruses.
The funding will accelerate clinical trials and offer extra support to its development, private sector research, and manufacturing.
Fauci stated vaccines remain the focal point of their arsenal, reported Aol.
The United States has approved remdesivir, an antiviral for novel coronavirus. It also allowed emergency use of three antibody therapies that aid the immune system in combatting the virus. However, all the drugs have to be provided by IV at medical clinics or hospitals. Demand has been low due to such logistical hindrances.
The United States government has been making efforts to raise awareness of the treatments. They are educating people who test positive for the coronavirus about information regarding nearby providers.
Health experts, including Fauci, have been calling for simpler pill-based drugs that patients could take by themselves. Several drugmakers are testing these simpler pills. However, early results are not to be expected in the coming months.
The US last week stated it would purchase 1.7 million doses of an experimental antiviral pill from Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. This would be possible if it proves to be safe and effective.
The available drugs now have mostly functioned to help patients shorten their recovery time by several days or alleviate hospitalization.
Findings from a large study of the drug molnupiravir are slated to be received this fall. According to early research, the drug could diminish the susceptibility of hospitalization if used briefly following infection by stopping COVID-19 from quickly reproducing. It did not positively affect patients who were already admitted to the hospital with severe illness.
Roche, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and many other companies are also testing antiviral pills.
The United States under former President Donald Trump poured over $19 billion into rapidly evolving COVID-19 vaccines. Less than half of such amount was allocated towards developing new treatments, reported US News.