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June 18, 2021

Health Law Weekly

Biden Administration Devoting $3 Billion to Spur Development of Antivirals

  • June 18, 2021

The government is investing more than $3 billion in funding under the American Rescue Plan Act in developing antiviral treatments for COVID-19 and other viruses that could cause future pandemics, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced June 17.

Although COVID-19 infections are declining as more Americans are vaccinated, oral antiviral medicines are still needed to help prevent future hospitalization surges and save lives both in the United States and abroad, the agency said.  

“Even with very effective vaccines, some people may remain vulnerable to the virus, including people who are immunosuppressed or who are unvaccinated,” said Dr. David Kessler, Chief Science Officer for the Biden Administration’s COVID-19 Response. “An easily administered oral antiviral drug would be an important part of our therapeutic arsenal that would complement the great success of our vaccine efforts.”

The move builds on the administration’s efforts to advance the development of promising therapies for COVID-19. The federal government last week announced a $1.2 billion deal with Merck & Co. to buy roughly 1.7 million courses of the company’s investigational antiviral, molnupiravir, if the Food and Drug Administration authorizes or approves the treatment.

The plan includes more than $300 million for research and lab support, nearly $1 billion for preclinical and clinical evaluation, and nearly $700 million for development and manufacturing.

The plan also provides up to $1.2 billion to drive discovery and development of antiviral medicines for coronaviruses and other viruses with pandemic potential.