UK Approval Of Molnupiravir May Create New And More Dangerous Covid-19 Variants

As of this morning, British drug regulators have approved the Covid-19 antiviral drug molnupiravir for use in Covid-19 patients at risk for severe illness, making them the first public health officials to do so. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency released a statement alleging the drug, an oral pill developed by Merck Sharp & Dohme and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, passed a “stringent review” for safety and efficacy. The public assessment report, which will detail the authorization process, is forthcoming. In October Merck announced that in a global clinical trial, molnupiravir reduced hospitalizations and deaths in Covid-19 patients by nearly 50 percent. The drug, given twice a day for five days, has since been bought up in bulk by governments around the world, including the United States. But missing from the official statements issued by UK regulators and pharmaceutical companies is any mention whatsoever of the potential mutagenic effects of molnupiravir on the virus itself, which I have outlined in a recent article for Forbes. The question isn’t only whether mutagenesis is dangerous for those who swallow the pill. It is a danger to the entire world population, and a glaring blindspot for the review committees involved. Molnupiravir works by tricking the virus into using the drug for replication, then inserting errors into the virus’ genetic code once replication is underway. When enough copying errors occur, the virus is essentially killed off, unable to replicate any further. If the pill is administered to millions, which will likely be the case if this authorization is the first of many, it could introduce mutations to the virus itself that are significant enough to change how the virus functions, but not so powerful as to stop it from replicating and becoming the next dominant variant. Read full article on Forbes Originally published on Forbes (November 4, 2021)
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