Did Political and Media Bias Stall the Release of Merck's New Covid-19 Drug?
Former HHS officials say they tried to accelerate funding for what became Merck's new "miracle" drug last year, but were blocked. How culture-war stupidity may have cost "tens of thousands" of lives
It seemed like a rare instance of good news in big doses last week when pharmaceutical giant Merck announced that a new drug called molnupiravir had been shown in tests to cut hospitalizations and deaths by half. The simple, easy-to-take pill would give doctors “a whole new, easy-to-use weapon” in the fight against Covid-19, as the AP put it.
Press observers were ecstatic. Headlines ranged from “Merck pill seen as ‘huge advance’” (Reuters) to “Momentum From Potential Covid-19 Drug Stays Intact” (Yahoo!) to “Everything You Need to Know About Merck’s Game-Changing Covid Pill” (Bloomberg). Nearly every story cited data from Merck’s own press release, which claimed studies had shown an experimental oral drug had tremendous promise. From the Bloomberg article:
Of 385 patients who got the drug, 28 or 7.3% were hospitalized, compared with 53 out of 377 (14.1%) who got a placebo. Through day 29, no deaths were reported in patients who received molnupiravir, but eight died in the placebo arm.