News & Politics

Merck's Miracle COVID-19 Pill Not As Miraculous As Claimed

(AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

Last month, Merck & Co. and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics announced that an experimental pill they developed together promised to cut the risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19 by roughly 50%. The drug, called molnupiravir, was in late-stage trials at the time and was expected to be authorized for emergency use by the end of the year.

Molnupiravir was dubbed by the Wall Street Journal as a “Tamiflu for COVID-19” that would slow the spread of COVID-19 in the body and potentially prevent serious illness.

But, now Merck & Co. says that updated data from their study showed that molnupiravir was significantly less effective at cutting hospitalizations and deaths than previously touted.

“The drugmaker said its pill showed a 30% reduction in hospitalizations and deaths, based on data from 1,433 patients,” reports Reuters. “In October, its data nL1N2QX0QJ showed a roughly 50% efficacy, based on data from 775 patients.”

Related: Pfizer Files for Emergency Use Authorization of New COVID Pill

Pfizer is also working on a pill, called Paxlovid, which claims to reduce hospitalizations and deaths by 89%.

Meanwhile, the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine, which is out-of-patent and cheap to make, goes absurdly underused in the fight against COVID. There have been nearly 300 studies into hydroxychloroquine’s effectiveness in treating COVID-19—the overwhelming majority of which show positive results—including a large-scale study published in July conducted by the Henry Ford Health System that found a 50% reduction in mortality in patients who took hydroxychloroquine.