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US to try to develop antiviral pills that would reduce Covid-19 symptoms

The US is investing $3.2 billion in the development of the pills.

Dr Anthony Fauci
Dr Anthony Fauci
Image: PA

THE UNITED STATES is allocating $3.2 billion to advance development of antiviral pills for Covid-19.

Chief medical advisor Dr Anthony Fauci announced the investment during 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 minimise 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 private sector research, development and manufacturing.

Fauci said the new programme would invest in “accelerating things that are already in progress” for Covid-19, but also work to innovate new therapies for other viruses.

“There are few treatments that exist for many of the viruses that have pandemic potential,” said Fauci.

But he added, “vaccines clearly remain the centrepiece of our arsenal”.

The US 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.

The US government has been trying to raise awareness of the treatments, connecting people who test positive for Covid-19 with information about nearby providers.

Health experts, including Dr Fauci, have increasingly called for simpler pill-based drugs that patients could take themselves. Some drug-makers are testing such medications, but initial results are not expected for several more months.

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The currently available drugs have mostly been shown to help patients avoid hospitalisation or shorten their recovery time by several days.

Under Donald Trump, the US poured more than $19 billion US dollars into rapidly developing multiple vaccines but less than half that amount went toward developing new treatments.

The biggest need is for a convenient pill that can help keep patients with early symptoms of Covid-19 from developing severe disease and needing hospitalisation.

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Press Association

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