COVID-19 antiviral pills could be our reality by the end of this year

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Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the biggest challenges is getting vulnerable infected from testing to treatment fast enough to save their lives, but we just don’t have any quick and easy treatments designed to treat the virus just yet. A new government program is aiming to change that — and fast. Their goal is to create antiviral pills to treat COVID-19 by the end of the year that would start treating the disease almost as soon as a person is infected.

The Biden administration announced this morning that they’re funding research into antiviral treatments for COVID-19 and other diseases to the tune of $3 billion dollars. One of the most exciting treatments the program is banking on are the aforementioned antiviral pills that target coronavirus. If everything goes as planned, these pills could be available by the end of 2021, reported the New York Times.

What that means is that if you suspect you have COVID, instead of sitting at home — or in an overcrowded hospital — for symptoms to kick in, you could take a pill that would start fighting the virus immediately. Anthony Fauci explains how easy the process might be,“I call up my doctor and I say, ‘I have Covid and I need a prescription,” he told the Times.

If that seems too good to be true, well, for once, it may not be. There are many antiviral drugs currently on the market, like the protease inhibitors used to treat H.I.V. and Tamiflu to treat influenza, both successfully. The antivirals being developed to treat COVID-19 work by preventing the virus from replicating within the body, according to the Times. It will be most effective taken in the first few days of the disease, before the body has shored up its own defenses.

The influx of cash going toward the development of effective and accessible COVID-19 treatments seems like a godsend, and let’s hope researchers can make it happen fast enough. While it may feel like the pandemic is over in the U.S., that’s only true for those of us who’ve been vaccinated. The reality is that COVID-19 infections have now surpassed 600,000 and experts fear that the spread of the Delta variant — one of the quickest and deadliest mutations we’ve seen yet — could wreak havoc if it isn’t kept in check.

The new program that's working on the pills, called the Antiviral Program for Pandemics, would be a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the National Institutes Of Health. According to the Times, the program will fast track clinical trials for promising COVID-19 treatments that already exist and fund the creation of new ones, so we could see a lot more promising news soon. And go!