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New Merck data shows COVID-19 drug less effective

A pregnant COVID-19 patient is treated in an intensive care unit at St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center in Boise, Idaho on Aug. 31. Associated Press/Photo by Kyle Green

New Merck data shows COVID-19 drug less effective

The pharmaceutical company released new numbers on Friday on the effectiveness of molnupiravir, a pill that interim results in October indicated might cut coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths by half. The updated findings, based on nearly double the number of study participants, lowers the efficacy rate to 30 percent. The Food and Drug Administration posted an analysis on Friday ahead of an advisory committee meeting on Tuesday. The agency said the pill appears to be effective, but it wants outside experts to address pregnancy and birth defect risks. According to the FDA, Merck agreed not to provide molnupiravir to children over safety concerns.

What are the concerns? Molnupiravir inserts genetic mutations into the COVID-19 virus’s DNA to prevent it from reproducing. Federal regulators worried this could lead to stronger virus variants in the future. Merck’s study also did not include any pregnant women. The FDA analysis noted several potential risks, including birth defects in studies of the pill on animals. The agency also said Merck collected less safety data than researchers had for other COVID-19 therapies. The advisory committee will review the research and decide whether to recommend Merck’s pill and whether or not to recommend it specifically for pregnant women. The committee’s decision is not binding on the agency.

Dig deeper: Read my report in the Sift about Pfizer’s development of its own oral COVID-19 drug treatment.

Carolina Lumetta

Carolina is a WORLD reporter and a graduate of the World Journalism Institute and Wheaton College. She resides in Washington, D.C.


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