US Government Allocates $3.2 Billion For COVID-19 Antiviral Pills

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Ailan Evans Deputy Editor
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The Department of Health and Human Services will invest $3.2 billion to develop and manufacture COVID-19 antiviral medicines, it announced Thursday.

The initiative, funded as part of the American Rescue Plan, is designed to accelerate research into antivirals as well as build platforms for urgent response to future viral threats, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said in a statement Thursday. Specifically, the plan expands antiviral clinical trials, forms partnerships between health agencies and pharmaceutical companies, and funds “drug discovery groups” tasked with innovating new antiviral medicines.

“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 chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci in the statement.

Antiviral drugs work by preventing the coronavirus from replicating and spreading, impeding the virus’s infection process, according to The New York Times. Antivirals are most effective in the early days of infection when the virus hasn’t yet spread throughout the body.

While research efforts will initially be focused on COVID-19 antivirals, the door is left open to “other viruses with pandemic potential”, according to the statement. (RELATED: Antibody Therapy Shown To Reduce Risk Of Death In COVID-19 Patients, Seeks FDA Approval)

Cardboard boxes of antiviral drug Remdesivir, used to treat COVID-19. (Photo by DIRK WAEM/Belga/AFP via Getty Images)

Cardboard boxes of antiviral drug Remdesivir, used to treat COVID-19. (Photo by DIRK WAEM/Belga/AFP via Getty Images)

The plan also introduces a framework for prioritizing antiviral medicines for Food and Drug Administration authorization and approval. This comes following the Biden administration’s purchase of 1.7 million antivirals from pharmaceutical giant Merck, which has yet to go through pending FDA authorization.

“Our administration is going to harness the power of American ingenuity to spur the creation and development of these drugs that can save lives both here in the United States and around the world,” said Dr. David Kessler, Chief Science Officer of the administration’s COVID-19 response team, in the HHS’s statement.

The initiative follows in the footsteps of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed, in which health agencies, pharmaceutical companies, and regulatory bodies collaborated to develop, manufacture, and approve COVID-19 vaccines.

“The remarkable and rapid development of vaccines and testing technology has shown how agile scientific discovery can be when we combine the resources of public agencies, private entities, and our nation’s most brilliant and creative minds,” said Dr. Francis S. Collins, NIH Director, in reference to the operation.

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