The United States is investing $3.2 billion in the development of antiviral pills for COVID-19 and other viruses that could spark new pandemics.
 
The top U.S. infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, made the announcement Thursday at a White House briefing as part of a new initiative called the Antiviral Program for Pandemics.
 
The program will support research into the development of new drugs to address symptoms caused by the coronavirus and other potentially dangerous viruses.
 
Pills for COVID-19 are already in the developmental stage and could begin to be available by the end of 2021 if clinical trials are successful.  
 
The funding will expedite the trials and bolster support for private sector research, development, and manufacturing.
 
The U.S. previously approved the antiviral drug remdesivir as a treatment for COVID-19. It has also authorized for emergency use three antibody combinations that help fight the virus. But the drugs must be infused at hospitals or other medical facilities, a logistical issue that has resulted in weak demand.
 
Pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Roche have begun testing antiviral medications in pill form.
 

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