Merck’s COVID-19 pill linked to new virus mutations: Study

Yahoo Finance’s Anjalee Khemlani joins the Live show to explain a new study that suggests a link between Merck’s COVID-19 pill and new virus mutations, though Merck has denied these claims.

Video Transcript

- Merck is now forecasting sales of its COVID 19 antiviral pill to fall about $1 billion this year as demand is expected to fall with the end of the public emergency. And separately, a new study identified COVID-19 mutations linked to the use of Merck's pills in viral samples taken from patients. For more on the risks linked to these drug mutations and their impact on Merck, let's get to Yahoo Finance's Anjalee Khemlani. Can you explain this to us?


- You actually already understand this concept.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Think of antibiotic resistance, right? So, we know that certain bacterial infections build up that resistance to the antibiotics, and we've now been dealing with that in hospitals-- superbugs, et cetera. This is sort of similar to that. So, this is not something that was completely unexpected. Prior to approval, even, there were many experts pointing to the methodology that this treatment uses and the fact that it could in fact follow that kind of process.

And here, we have a study showing in a small sample that that could be happening. Merck, of course, denying that this is leading to any mutations. But there are experts warning about and looking into what the impact of this information could be, in particular the fact that these mutations could be linked to the drug but also the fact that, you know, Merck's pill has not been the favored one among the two options that have been out right now. Paxlovid, of course, we know Pfizer's pill has been the one that is more favored.

But it also has drug interactions. So, Molnupiravir has been the one that has been a go-to as a backup and now, with the approval pending in China, could have a much bigger market. We've talked about that on this show. So, all in all, a really interesting sort of dynamic for Merck to deal with. And we'll just have to see how it truly does play out.

- But-- so does Paxlovid not carry--


- --kind of effect, and do the vaccines not have a similar kind of effect where it sort of drives the virus to--

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: There has there has been discussion about that, right, whether or not these vaccines are causing adaptation and the like. But as it stands right now, the main driver of mutations that we've been finding is the spread of the virus itself. So, every time-- and I've said this in very simple terms before.

Every time the virus is in a body, It has a chance to make a mistake of the copy of the DNA of the virus, and that's what a mutation is. And so that's really where the focus of these variants has been to date. Now, as we get into lower circulation and the like, yes, we're going to see some of these other, you know, sources of mutations come up on the floor.

- We had some other earnings come out from the health care landscape earlier today as well. Which are the main ones we should be keeping tabs on?

- So, Bristol-Myers Squibb is seeing a little bit of reduction in demand there for one of their multiple myeloma drugs, facing a lot of generic competition right now. So, keep your eye on that even though the stock is up right now. And then Eli Lilly, that's another big one COVID-related.

We know that their antibody treatment, monoclonal antibody treatment, for the virus was one of the last men standing but now completely knocked out by these new variants. So they took a hit there on that. And meanwhile, they're also looking at their diabetes drug that is also being studied for weight loss. Really high demand there. But because of a reduction in sales, they took a hit this morning. So, those are the two things to look out for.

- Yahoo! Finance health care reporter Anjalee Khemlani. Thanks so much, Anj, for breaking those down.