Is Merck’s new antiviral covid pill a miracle drug or a cytotoxic mutagen?
(Update: Newly released data shows that Molnupiravir is a failure.)
In a recent press release, Merck writes that its new oral antiviral drug Molnupiravir reduced covid hospitalizations by about 50%, from about 14% in the control group to about 7% in the treatment group, in a phase 3 trial with about 800 participants. The study itself has not yet been published. According to press reports, Molnupiravir would cost about $700 per treatment.
The mode of action of Molnupiravir is similar to the mechanism of failed Remdesivir – so-called ‘lethal mutagenesis’, i.e. adding mutations to break RNA viral replication – but in contrast to Remdesivir, Molnupiravir is said to be resistant to the coronavirus genetic proofreading mechanism.
On the positive side, the Molnupiravir trial was designed as an early outpatient treatment study (within 5 days of symptom onset) targeting high-risk patients (over 60 or with a major risk factor, hence the high hospitalization rates). This is how it should be done. In contrast, many studies of low-cost, off-patent repurposed drugs were done in hospitalized patients or included young and healthy patients, making it almost impossible to achieve statistically significant results.
On the negative side, no matter what Merck may claim, the active form of Molnupiravir (EIDD-2801) has been shown to have mutagenic properties, which may cause DNA damage during DNA replication and, thus, potentially increase the risk of cancer or birth defects. Indeed, during and after Merck’s Molnupiravir trial, participants had to “abstain from heterosexual intercourse”.
This is the reason why the original developer, PharmaAsset, stopped development of the drug almost 20 years ago. For the same reason, the former head of the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), Rick Bright, denied funding to the trial of Molnupiravir back in April 2020; in response, Bright got fired by the US Health Department and went public with a complaint.
Ironically, while Merck is claiming, without published evidence, that its novel, high-priced and potentially mutagenic drug is “safe”, back in February, the same Merck claimed, also without evidence, that its off-patent, low-price and well-established drug Ivermectin may not be safe.
As usual, most media and many ‘health experts’ simply took the recent Merck press release at face value and got enthusiastic about the new experimental drug (“game changer”), despite the fact that both Remdesivir in 2020 and Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) in 2009 (during the fake “swine flu pandemic”) turned out to be useless or even toxic multi-billion dollar “failures”. Indeed, Tamiflu manufacturer Roche is still facing a $1.5 billion lawsuit over false claims concerning the drug’s effectiveness.
Back in 2007, Merck itself was sued by about 50,000 people over strokes and heart attacks caused by its FDA-approved arthritis drug Vioxx; Merck ultimately had to pay damages of close to $5 billion.
Thus, to truly ascertain the effectiveness and safety of Merck’s novel Molnupiravir anti-covid drug, independent studies are required. Of course, such studies are very unlikely to happen in the near future. Instead, governments will simply stock up on the drug for billions of dollars.
Update: Merck’s Covid Pill Could Pose Serious Risks, Scientists Warn (Barron’s)
Related: The Ivermectin Debate (September 2021)