The United States is looking for a pill to cure Covid-19

The United States is looking for a pill to cure Covid-19

From vaccines to drugs: the Biden administration wants to fund research to develop antiviral pills to treat coronavirus infection

(image: Pixabay) The vaccines for Covid-19, as desired and expected, have given some breathing room. But now is the time to commit to finding an effective cure for coronavirus disease. So the Biden administration has announced that it plans to allocate $ 3.2 billion to develop oral therapy with antiviral pills that can help resolve Sars-Cov-2 infection before it escalates. There are already promising molecules on the table and with such support the research could produce results that can be applied in the clinic by the end of the year. And in the long run perhaps not just for coronaviruses.

Failed treatments

Several trials during the pandemic emergency had already tried to find an effective solution to Covid-19. Testing existing drugs in use for other pathologies to verify their effects on patients (usually already hospitalized) was the purpose of the mega-trial of the World Health Organization (WHO) Solidarity, which however had discarded several pharmacological alternatives such as hydroxychloroquine or some antivirals used for the control of HIV infections.

Among the antivirals tested only remdesivir (originally developed for Ebola) had given evidence of efficacy in hospitalized Covid patients, and was approved by regulatory agencies with intravenous administration. Its performance, however, is not the best, so much so that WHO does not recommend its use.

The wrong time

Some experts believe that the time chosen for the administration of the therapy could have really determined the failure of the trials of some antivirals: to give a drug against viral replication to hospitalized patients would be an almost useless action because it comes at a time when the disease has gone beyond the damage caused by the virus, and towards the self-inflicted damage by the overactive immune system.

Perhaps, instead, having a An easy-to-take antiviral drug, such as a pill, to be given when the infection is still in its early stages may work. And there are candidates already.


Developed in 2019 by researchers at Emory University, molnupiravir has been shown to be effective in interfering with infection with influenza viruses and one type of encephalitis. In some animal experiments with Covid-19, then, it had given such promising results that the pharmaceutical company Merck had started a clinical trial on hospitalized patients. The experimentation, however, was not giving great results. However, the study of the effects of the molecule on patients who have recently received the diagnosis of Covid-19 and who are more at risk of complications is still underway. The first results are expected in October.

The Biden administration has already contacted Merck to purchase 1.7 million doses of the antiviral (at a cost of 1.2 billion dollars), should the Food and drug administration (Fda) should approve it.


Another molecule on the US administration's radar is known as At-527, developed by Atea Pharmaceuticals for HCV infection (hepatitis C virus). It has already given evidence of efficacy and safety for the treatment of hepatitis C and it is thought that it can also give satisfaction for that of Covid-19. In fact, Atea and Roche are already testing it.


PF-07321332 is a drug developed in the 2000s by Pfizer as a potential treatment for SARS. The substantial disappearance of the latter as a threat to global health has left it unused, but now researchers believe they can adapt it to Sars-Cov-2. A change to the structure also makes it administrable in the form of a pill. After the tests on animals, the company has received the green light for clinical trials: it started in March and should give results on the safety of the drug by the summer.

With lead feet

If these molecules were also shown to be safe and effective in humans, it would not mean they have solved every problem. They will probably not be super effective products (a bit like Tamiflu for flu, the effect of which is to reduce the duration of the infection and speed up recovery times); in addition, there will be a need for excellent coordination between tests for coronavirus, the outcome of the analysis and medical prescription to intervene in good time.

Not only coronavirus

This is also why the government of The United States aims to diversify by also supporting the search for drugs that block the coronavirus with various approaches, from interfering with viral proteins to preventing the copying of genes. It will probably take a few more years to see the birth of new generation pills, but experts believe that financing these projects can be a good investment for the future: today it is the coronavirus that gives us more problems, but tomorrow it could be a flavivirus (like that of Dengue) or a togavirus (like that of chikungunya), and we should update our arsenal.

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