Image of older adult coughing into hand as companion looks pats his back

Clinical trials for a number of promising new COVID-19 antiviral medications are expected to wrap up by this winter, sparking hopes that a daily pill to treat COVID-19 infection is closer to fruition, according to a new report.

“I think that we will have answers as to what these pills are capable of within the next several months,” Carl Dieffenbach, director of the Division of AIDS at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Kaiser Health News.

There are at least three top candidates that could quickly be distributed if the trial results support emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration, Dieffenbach said.

One drug stands out. Molnupiravir, made by Merck & Co. and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, is being tested as a preventive in a large ongoing trial. If proven to work and authorized by federal regulators, the U.S. government will pay $1.2 billion to secure 1.7 million courses, according to various sources. 

Others include Pfizer’s drug PF-07321332, which is being tested in non-hospitalized, symptomatic adult study participants, and AT-527, an antiviral contender by Roche and Atea Pharmaceuticals.

The hope is that Americans will be able to access oral antiviral pills immediately after SARS-CoV-2 infection is confirmed, sources told KHN investigators.

“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,” Timothy Sheahan, a virologist at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, said.

The full story is available here.