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Biden administration unveils $ 3.2 billion pill hunt to treat COVID-19 and other viruses

The Biden administration said Thursday it would invest $ 3.2 billion to accelerate the development of antiviral pills that could treat COVID-19 and other viruses, a major step that could save many lives in future pandemics. .

The Department of Health and Human Services said the plan, dubbed the antiviral program for pandemics, would speed up and expand support for clinical trials and help continue development of as yet undiscovered drugs. The agency expressed hope that it could have oral antiviral treatment for COVID-19 cleared by the Food and Drug Administration within a year.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said the program may soon see Americans taking a home pill course at the onset of illness to help prevent the worst impacts of a virus like the coronavirus, rather than ending up in the hospital with a more serious case. He expressed hope on Thursday that the therapy would ultimately be as useful as the drugs taken to treat HIV and hepatitis C.

“New antivirals that prevent serious illness and death from COVID-19, especially oral medications that could be taken at home at the onset of the disease, would be powerful tools to fight the pandemic and save lives,” Fauci said in a statement Thursday.

Dr David Kessler, White House COVID-19 response science director, said the Biden administration’s investment, linked to President Joe Biden’s US bailout, would only add to the strong agenda of vaccination in progress throughout the country.

“Even with highly effective vaccines, some people can remain vulnerable to the virus, including those who are immunocompromised or unvaccinated,” Kessler said in a statement. “An easy-to-administer oral antiviral drug would be an important part of our therapeutic arsenal that would complement the great success of our vaccination efforts. “

Medicine has advanced in recent decades to better treat viruses like HIV and hepatitis C, and even the flu, with antivirals. Researchers are now testing antiviral pills that work in a similar way, and the HHS has said 19 drugs have been prioritized as part of the $ 3.2 billion package for testing and clinical trials in patients with COVID- 19.

“Of course, as we’ve heard so often now, in recent briefings, vaccines clearly remain the centerpiece of our arsenal against COVID-19,” Fauci said Thursday at a press briefing, by The Hill. “However, antivirals can and are an important adjunct to existing vaccines, especially for people with certain conditions that could put them at greater risk.”

So far, only one drug, remdesivir, has been proven to help people hospitalized with COVID-19. The drug is the only antiviral with full FDA approval to treat coronavirus, but it is not a panacea and is only available in hospitals or medical facilities via an IV.

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