Just Another Scam: Is Merck And Pfizer COVID19 Antivirals Really That Different From Ivermectin?

source – istock

Merck and Pfizer are both working on a novel oral antiviral medication that might be used to prevent or treat COVID-19. The tablets are not the same as the antiparasitic medicine Ivermectin, despite claims on the internet that they are “suspiciously similar" or that the companies are “repackaging" Ivermectin to maximise revenues.

Nearly two years on and Covid has swept through the entire globe. A variety of drugs and techniques have been investigated and proven to be successful, while others have been found to be ineffective.

394 therapies and 241 antivirals are still being developed against COVID-19, and medications already licensed by the US Food and Drug Administration or readily accessible over-the-counter remedies are being researched to determine whether they make a difference.

Researchers are keen to discover effective medicines. However, this requires time, money, effort, and patients who are willing to enroll in clinical studies. But just how much of it is actually true? 

source - health magazine

Just Another Scam: Is Merck And Pfizer COVID19 Antivirals Really That Different From Ivermectin?

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been no easy-to-take oral tablet that could prevent or treat infection with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2. Pharmaceutical companies, on the other hand, have been focusing on testing novel pharmaceutical alternatives, and Merck and Pfizer have revealed developmental breakthroughs in the last few weeks.

On September 27, Pfizer announced the start of a late-stage clinical research to see if its oral COVID-19 antiviral, in conjunction with another drug, can prevent coronavirus infection. The experimental drug, PF-07321332, is a protease inhibitor that prevents the SARS-CoV-2 virus from replicating itself by blocking a crucial enzyme.

In July and August, the company began phase 2/3 trials to see whether the drug combination worked as a treatment in individuals with confirmed infection.

Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics reported favourable phase 3 trial interim results for their COVID-19 antiviral on October 1st. According to a press statement, the drug, dubbed Molnupiravir after Thor’s hammer, reduced the risk of hospitalisation and mortality in individuals with mild to moderate COVID-19 by approximately 50% when administered within five days of symptom onset.

While the findings have not been published or peer-reviewed, they were convincing enough for the trial’s independent Data Monitoring Committee to urge that recruiting into the research be halted as soon as possible. The businesses announced on Oct. 11 that they had filed an application to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization of the drug; the FDA has said that it will assemble an advisory committee to review the application on Nov. 30.

Molnupiravir is a nucleoside analogue, which is a drug that disrupts viral replication by manipulating the virus into utilising the processed medication as one of its genetic code building blocks. It’s a molecular bait-and-switch mechanism that induces the virus to incorporate so many mistakes during replication that it can’t survive or replicate. This is referred to as “error catastrophe," and it is accomplished by a process known as “lethal mutagenesis."

Despite the fact that both drugs are novel, users on social media are propagating the false notion that the medications are the same as or “suspiciously similar" to Ivermectin — an antiparasitic treatment that has not been demonstrated to be effective against COVID-19 — in order to increase revenues, they argue.

source - reuters

“In other news, Pfizer is testing Ivermectin, now renamed PF-07321332, to help with Covid. They have done this so they can make this drug more expensive than Ivermectin, despite the fact, they are the same drug,” according to one Twitter user who shared an article by Reuters regarding Pfizer’s COVID-19 prevention trial.

The author of the tweet described it as sarcasm, but it was shared in a screenshot on Instagram, with the sharer falsely alleging that Pfizer was “attempting to reverse engineer a version of Ivermectin that can’t quite legally be called Ivermectin."

Some variations of the allegation inaccurately state that Pfizer’s medicine is “based on" Ivermectin and that the two are fundamentally the same since they are both protease inhibitors — something that has not been confirmed and, even if true, does not imply that the drugs are similar.

source - twitter

“Pfizer’s new oral antiviral is just a protease inhibitor just like Ivermectin. They’re literally repackaging Ivermectin to sell to the masses with a new name.” – read an Instagram post, shared by Idaho state Rep. Tammy Nichols

The term “Pfizermectin" seems to have originated from the conservative satirical website the Babylon Bee in a parody medication advertisement uploaded to YouTube earlier this month.

Many of these social media posts, including one on Alex Jones’ InfoWars, explicitly share or rely on elements from ZeroHedge articles, a common source of misinformation.

source - instagram

According to a computational modelling paper released in March by some Indian experts, Ivermectin may act as a protease inhibitor, among other potential mechanisms. This apparent link is made explicit in social media postings by a graphic that juxtaposes a Pfizer press release with the abstract of the Indian article.

However, that article does not demonstrate that Ivermectin functions as a protease inhibitor against SARS-CoV-2 by any kind of biological investigation – it only suggests the potential based on computer simulations.

So far, the findings do not support the use of Ivermectin to treat COVID-19, but clinical studies are planned to find out for sure. However, if the medicine works, it is unlikely to be via protease inhibition or any other antiviral mechanism, since the dose required to demonstrate antiviral effects in the test tube is considerably larger than the quantity administered to individuals.

Similar allegations have been made regarding Merck’s Molnupiravir, which, if approved by the FDA, would cost roughly $700 for each course of tablets.

source - istock

“Looks like Merck is repackaging the ‘horse drug’ and making it much more expensive! It will be the ‘new’ treatment for C. in pill form. My guess is they changed the formula just a bit to rebrand and patent.” a post on Facebook read, referring to Ivermectin.

The Food and Drug Administration has warned individuals against self-medicating using easier-to-access forms of Ivermectin for animals, which are highly concentrated and may also include additional substances not tested in humans. The government is aware of several incidents in which individuals were hospitalised after consuming these products in an attempt to treat or prevent covid-19 infection.

New Antivirals Are Nothing Like Ivermectin

The chemical formulas and structures of the substances show that none of the experimental drugs is Ivermectin, nor are they particularly comparable.

Unlike Ivermectin, which is composed of just three types of particles — carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen — Pfizer’s drug also includes chlorine, nitrogen, and sulphur; Merck’s drug also contains nitrogen, but its molecular weight is less than half that of Ivermectin. The drugs also exhibit no structural similarity.

“Pfizer’s 3CL protease inhibitor is nothing like Ivermectin,” Dr. David Boulware, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Minnesota, told FactCheck.org in an email.

Ivermectin, marketed by Merck under the brand name Stromectol, is FDA-approved for the treatment of the parasitic diseases roundworm and river blindness in humans. The drug, which has been available for decades, works by activating certain receptors on the parasites’ cells, killing them.

source - medpage today

Ivermectin was identified as a possible COVID-19 treatment after some Australian researchers discovered that it inhibited multiplication of SARS-CoV-2 in cells cultured in the lab. Because it is inexpensive and currently used safely against parasites in human formulations, it would be ideal if it could be reused as a COVID-19 treatment.

Many medicines, on the other hand, may demonstrate antiviral properties in a petri dish but are useless as pharmaceuticals. In reality, Ivermectin has consistently shown its ability to inhibit a number of viruses in cultured cells, but it has yet to be approved as a treatment for any viral disease.

Several mechanisms have been suggested to explain how Ivermectin restricts coronavirus replication in lab cells, but protease inhibition, as stated in social media postings, is not one of them.

More often, scientists mention the drug’s possible capacity to inhibit a host protein from importing viral proteins into the nucleus, or, less frequently, to interfere with SARS-CoV-2’s ability to infect human cells through its spike protein.

However, investigations have indicated that the quantity of Ivermectin that suppresses the coronavirus in a lab is considerably greater than that used in people, making it unlikely that the drug, if it is beneficial to COVID-19 patients, acts as an antiviral. This is in stark contrast to the medications developed by Merck and Pfizer.

“While one could debate the exact mechanism of Ivermectin, the biggest difference is that Pfizer’s protease inhibitor inhibits coronavirus at concentrations that are achievable in the human body. In the initial lab experiments, Ivermectin required 50-100x the achievable concentrations in humans.” said Boulware, a researcher at the University of Minnesota who is investigating Ivermectin as an outpatient COVID-19 treatment.

source - malaymail

A study of coronavirus-infected hamsters treated with Ivermectin found no decrease in viral load, but the animals were better able to smell, as assessed in a food-finding test, and there was a favourable impact on the inflammatory response. According to Boulware, the findings might point to a prospective advantage, but not for Ivermectin as an antiviral.

As a consequence, there is no foundation for asserting that the Pfizer or Merck medications are in any way comparable to Ivermectin.

Pfizer, too, rejects any link. “Pfizer’s protease inhibitor is not identical to that of an animal drug and does not work in the same way," a company spokesman stated in an email, adding that protease inhibitors exist for a range of viruses, including HIV and hepatitis C.

According to the company, the medicine is the “first orally administered coronavirus-specific investigational protease inhibitor to be evaluated in clinical studies,” and it was developed alongside its experimental intravenous COVID-19 protease inhibitor. That medication, which is also being tested, is an improved version of a chemical discovered by the firm in 2003 while searching for treatments to combat the initial SARS coronavirus.

source - UCSD Guardian

Merck’s  Molnupiravir, on the other hand, was developed at Emory University’s not-for-profit biotech firm, Drug Innovation Ventures at Emory, and began as a potential treatment for people infected with Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus before showing activity against multiple coronaviruses, as well as influenza, in 2015.

In March 2020, researchers discovered that it could also combat SARS-CoV-2 in human cells in culture, and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics was granted a licence to conduct clinical trials. Later, the firm teamed with Merck.

Concerns about medication price are legitimate, but the idea that Pfizer and Merck’s experimental new antivirals are based on or rebranded copies of Ivermectin in order to increase profits is entirely false.

It’s worth mentioning that even if one or both of the medications is successful and approved for use against COVID-19, being vaccinated is still the best and cheapest approach to avoid severe disease — and the treatments can be used to offer even better results if necessary.

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