6 things to know about antiviral pills being developed to treat COVID-19

The next pharmaceutical feat to help defeat the pandemic could be a short-term regimen of daily pills to prevent symptoms once an individual has contracted COVID-19, Kaiser Health News reported Sept. 24.

Six things to know:

  1. Oral antivirals have the potential not only to subdue COVID-19 symptoms, but also to limit transmission of the virus, according to Timothy Sheahan, PhD, a virologist at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

  2. The antiviral pills being developed to treat COVID-19 can work in different ways, depending on the pill. They can strengthen the immune system to fight against the virus, block receptors so the viruses can’t enter healthy cells or decrease active virus levels in the body.

  3. Merck is developing a COVID-19 antiviral pill called molnupiravir with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. Merck CEO Robert Davis said the drugmaker expects data from its large phase 3 trials testing the drug in the coming weeks and that an FDA emergency use authorization application could come before the end of 2021.

  4. Pfizer is developing a COVID-19 antiviral pill known as PF-07321332. On Sept. 1, the drugmaker began a combined phase 2 and 3 trial for the drug.

  5. Roche is developing a COVID-19 antiviral pill known as AT-527 with Atea Pharmaceuticals. Atea officials said they expect results from phase 2 and phase 3 trials later in 2021.

  6. In June, the U.S. agreed to buy about 1.7 million treatment courses of molnupiravir for $1.2 billion if the product is approved by the FDA. The same month, the U.S. also said it would invest $3.2 billion in the Antiviral Program for Pandemics, which focuses on developing antiviral treatments for COVID-19 and other pandemics.

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