Study Links Merck Covid Drug to Mutations Spreading between People


A recent study has raised concerns about Merck’s antiviral Covid pill, molnupiravir, suggesting that it can cause mutations in the virus, some of which may spread to other individuals. This discovery has led to questions about whether the drug could potentially accelerate the evolution of the Covid virus.

Molnupiravir functions by inducing mutations in the genetic information of the Covid virus, weakening or destroying it, and reducing the viral load in the body. However, the study, published in the scientific journal Nature, found that, on occasion, the virus can survive molnupiravir treatment, resulting in mutated variants that have been detected in other patients.

Researchers in the United States and the United Kingdom analyzed 15 million Covid genomes to identify mutations and their occurrences. They observed an increase in mutations in 2022 following the introduction of molnupiravir in many countries.

The study did not find any evidence that molnupiravir, sold under the brand name Lagevrio, produced more transmissible or severe variants of Covid. Nonetheless, the findings are important for regulators evaluating the risks and benefits of molnupiravir.

Merck has pushed back against the study, stating that the researchers assumed the mutations analyzed were associated with molnupiravir-treated patients “without documented evidence of that transmission.” The company argued that the mutations were uncommon and linked to sporadic cases.

Molnupiravir has been a subject of controversy due to its potential to cause genetic mutations. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) initially granted emergency use authorization for the drug in late 2021 but recommended against its use during pregnancy and in patients under 18 due to potential risks.

The study’s findings have raised questions about the drug’s efficacy and safety, which could impact its use as a treatment for Covid in the future.

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