“Proceed With Caution At Your Own Peril” – Merck’s COVID ‘Super Drug’ Poses Severe Health Risks, Scientists Warn

A few scientists are worried that the medication could cause cancer or birth defects

As it turns out, all the scientists and doctors who insisted that Merck’s “ revolutionary” COVID drug molnupiravir is extremely safe weren’t faithfully sticking with “ the science” in the end.

Because according to a report published Thursday by Barron’s, a few scientists are worried that the medication – which purportedly reduce hospitalizations in half during a research that was cut short – could cause cancer or birth defects.

So much for having a   “ strong safety user profile, ”   as Dr . Scott Gottlieb claimed in an interview on  the day Merck first publicized the research .

It’s perfectly understandable why Merck might decide to play down this protection risk: assuming it’s authorized, the drug is widely expected to be one of “ the most lucrative drugs ever” – which is one good reason that Merck’s shares soared directly into double-digit territory after the statement.

As  we reported earlier immediately , Merck and its “ partner” Ridgeback Biotherapeutics  will profit immensely by charging customers up to 40x what it costs to make the medication,   which Ridgeback originally licensed from Emory University for an “ undisclosed sum”. The drug was developed with funding from the federal government.

According to  Barron’s , a few scientists who have studied the drug believe that its approach to suppressing the virus could potentially operate amok within the body.

Some researchers who have studied the medication warn, however , that the method it uses to kill herpes that causes Covid-19 carries possible dangers that could limit the particular drug’s usefulness.

Molnupiravir works by integrating itself into the genetic material of the virus, and then causing a huge number of mutations because the virus replicates,   effectively killing it. In some lab tests, the drug has also shown the ability to integrate to the genetic material of mammalian cells, causing mutations since those cells replicate.

If that were to happen in the cells of a patient being treated with molnupiravir, it could theoretically lead to cancer or birth defects.

In particular, Raymond Schinazi, a professor of pediatrics and the director of biochemical pharmacology at Emory who researched the drug while it had been developed, and published a number of papers on NHC, the compound that’s the active ingredient within the drug.   This individual published a paper that will showed the drug can produce a reaction like the one described above, and insisted this shouldn’t be given to young people – especially pregnant women – without more data .

Schinazi told  Barron’s  that he did not think that molnupiravir should be given to women that are pregnant, or to young people of reproductive age, until more information is available. Merck’s trials associated with molnupiravir have excluded women that are pregnant; the scientists running the trial  asked male individuals to “ abstain from heterosexual intercourse” while taking the drug, according to the federal government website that will tracks clinical trials.

Barron’s even shared  a document published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases in May   by  Schinazi and scientists at the University associated with North Carolina which reported that will NHC can cause mutations in animal cell cultures in a lab test designed to detect such mutations – something Merck claims it has tested for. The paper’s writers concluded that the risks for molnupiravir “ may not be zero”.

Merck told  Barron’s   that it has run “ comprehensive tests” on animals which usually it says show that this shouldn’t be an issue. “ The totality of the data from these studies indicates that molnupiravir is not mutagenic or genotoxic in in-vivo mammalian systems, ” a Merck speaker said.

Nevertheless, scientists and doctors who have studied NHC say that Merck needs to “ be careful, ” and it’s not just Schinazi caution about the drug’s potential dangers.

Dr . Shuntai Zhou, a scientist on the Swanstrom Lab at UNC, said   “ there is a concern that this will cause long-term mutation effects, also cancer. ”

Zhou says that he is certain that the medication will integrate itself in to the DNA of mammalian hosts.   “ Biochemistry and biology won’t lie, ”   he says. “ The pill will be incorporated in the GENETICS. ”

Merck hasn’t yet released any data from the animal studies, but the scientists believe that it would take long lasting studies to show that the drug is truly totally safe.

“ Proceed with extreme care and at your own peril, ”   wrote Raymond Schinazi, a professor of pediatrics and the director of the division of biochemical pharmacology at the Emory University School of Medicine, who has researched NHC for decades, in an email to  Barron’s.

Analysts are already caution that these questions about the drug’s safety suggest the reaction within Merck’s shares was a little “ overblown”, to say the least. Traders apparently were so anticipating a new “ pandemic panacea” (now that the mRNA jabs have proven to be much less effective than advertised) that they didn’t ask too many questions about protection, or even question the paucity of data. One analyst for SVB Leerink Dr . Geoffrey Porges described investors’ reaction from Friday as “ wishful thinking”.

Even once the FDA authorizes the drug, Dr . Porges believes it will include strict limitations on who can and can’t use it.   “ I think it is effectively going to be a controlled substance”,   Doctor Porges said, adding how the risks to pregnant women, or even women who may soon become pregnant, could present thorny problems for the FDA’s advisory committee reviewing the medication.

Given that the particular safety risks of the drug seem well-documented already, Wall structure Street’s gushing about the drug’s prospects –   “ it really is THAT good”,   one analyst insisted   – seems like an idiotic blunder in retrospect. The item of what one might call “ magical thinking”.

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