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US to invest over $3 billion for Covid antiviral medicines

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WASHINGTON: The US government is investing more than $3 billion to accelerate the development and manufacturing of antiviral medicines to treat Covid-19, according to a statement by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The plan, called the Antiviral Program for Pandemics, will respond to the urgent need for the antivirals by spurring the availability of medicines to prevent serious illness and save lives, Xinhua news agency quoted the statement as saying on Friday.
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This plan will support research to identify and accelerate availability of breakthrough treatment options.
It also will build sustainable platforms for developing antivirals for other viruses with pandemic potential, said the HHS.
The plan provides more than $300 million for research and lab support; nearly $1 billion for preclinical and clinical evaluation; and nearly $700 million for development and manufacturing through the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA),the statement added.
Identifying effective treatment options to prevent people diagnosed with Covid-19 from progressing to serious illness and death are vitally important, even as hundreds of millions of Americans get vaccinated against the disease and cases, hospitalisations and death rates continue to fall, experts have said.
Highly effective oral antiviral medicines that can be taken at home early in the course of infection, similar to antiviral treatment for influenza, would save lives and prevent overwhelming surges in hospitalizations, according to the HHS.
“New antivirals that prevent serious Covid-19 illness and death, especially oral drugs that could be taken at home early in the course of disease, would be powerful tools for battling the pandemic and saving lives,” said NIAID Director Anthony Fauci.
“Throughout this public health emergency, we have worked with industry to develop treatments to reduce severe illness, hospitalisations, and deaths, and this proposal will help us go even further to accelerate and deliver more safe and effective treatments that are easy to administer,” said BARDA director Gary Disbrow.
Currently, a total of 19 therapeutic agents have been prioritised for testing in rigorous clinical trials for outpatients and inpatients with Covid-19, according to the HHS.
Last week, President Joe Biden’s administration announced that it will procure approximately 1.7 million courses of an investigational antiviral treatment, molnupiravir (MK-4482), for Covid-19 from Merck, pending approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

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