WASHINGTON D.C. (WTVO) – A daily pill that would treat COVID-19 could only be months away, according to scientists.
The pills would be taken daily for a short time, fighting the virus soon after being diagnosed, and possibly prevent symptoms from developing after expose, according to USA Today.
“Oral antivirals have the potential to not only curtail the duration of one’s COVID-19 syndrome, but also have the potential to limit transmission to people in your household if you are sick,” said Timothy Sheahan, a virologist at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, who has helped to develop these treatments.
At least three different antivirals for COVID-19 are currently being tested in clinical trials, with results possibly being seen as early as late fall or winter, according to Carl Dieffenbach, director of the Division of AIDS at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who is overseeing the development of the antivirals.
Other viral infections, such as hepatitis C and HIV, already have antivirals that are essential to treatment. The medications work differently depending on the type, though they are all made to treat and prevent viral infections. These differences could be from boosting block receptors so viruses can not enter healthy cells, to boosting the immune system to fight off the infection.
The COVID-19 antivirals being tested work by interfering with the viruses’ ability to replicate once it is in human cells.
In the case of one of the medications, called molnupiravir from Merck & Co. and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, the virus is unable to reproduce due to the medication forcing the enzyme that copies the viral genetic material to make mistakes. This will reduce a patient’s viral load, which will reportedly reduce infection time and prevent dangerous immune responses that could cause serious illness or death.
So far, only one antiviral has been approved by the FDA as a treatment for COVID-19. However, the drug is only being given through an IV to people that are sick enough to be in the hospital. The antivirals being tested are intended for early, widespread use, and can be packaged as pills.
Pfizer, who is developing a drug currently known as PF-07321332, entered a combined Phase 2 and 3 of testing for the antiviral on September 1. Atea, who is developing the drug AT-527, announced that they should have results from their phase 2 and 3 trails later this year.
Dieffenbach said that if the results of the tests are positive, and emergency use is granted, that “distribution could begin quickly,” meaning that Americans could soon take a daily oral medication for 5 to 10 days after a COVID-19 diagnosis.
“When we get there, that’s the idea,” said Dr. Daniel Griffin, an infectious diseases and immunology expert at Columbia University. “To have this all around the country, so that people get it the same day they get diagnosed.”