In a recent clinical trial to test Merck’s Covid-19 pill, Scientists have found that the drug showed early signs of preventing hospitalization and death from the coronavirus in people at high risk of severe disease. Merck’s Covid-19 pill would be taken orally to prevent the replication of certain RNA viruses to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The drug molnupiravir was the driving factor of this pill that would allow it to show such high results. The antiviral medication works by making mutations in viral RNA so that viruses are rendered noninfectious. Such mutations happen throughout the virus’s genetic genome.
A 48 percent reduction in the relative risk of hospitalization or death. Despite this, on November 26, Merck announced in a news release that when all the available data from the trial was in, the relative reduction risk fell to 30 percent. After being reviewed by the FDA, the scientists determined that the placebo group and the molnupiravir group were too similar to declare the drug effective. They came to a 13-10 split decision vote about whether the drug should be immediately sent out for emergency use. The vote and debate reflected a storm of uncertainty about the drug’s efficacy and who should use it. Not only was there a debate, but the panel also queried whether the drug could lead to an even more dangerous version of the coronavirus and whether it can cause growth delays in children or mutation in human DNA. The drug is an artificial RNA building block, a nucleotide, that can mimic cytosine and uracil bases. Some enzymes in human cells might convert those RNA subunits to a DNA building block, which may lead to mutations in human DNA, especially in blood cells.
“The potential for this drug to drive some very challenging variants into the public is of major, major concern,” said James Hildreth, an immunologist, and president of Meharry Medical College in Nashville. Merck representatives noted that it is doubtful because infectious viruses were no longer detected after five days of taking the drug dosage. In one of their studies, the company found seven patients who had changes in the coronavirus’s spike protein after taking molnupiravir. Still, there was no evidence that the viruses spread to other people.
The question of whether Merck’s Covid-19 Pill will work is still very unknown due to the symptoms it may cause and the side effects that come along with it. The question may never be answered due to the progressively changing varients of the coronavirus. We should continue testing this drug and modifying it to have the best outcome and the least amount of side effects. What do you think about these new drugs? What next steps should scientists take to make it available to the public? Should we release it to the public?