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China’s Choice Antiviral Pill Is Causing New COVID Mutations, Study Finds

Merck's Lageviro COVID antiviral causes drug-specific SARS-CoV-2 mutations, a Wellcom Trust-funded study discovered. The pill was chosen over Pfizer's Paxlovid by the Chinese government's health authorities.
Neil Campbell
Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
Published: February 10, 2023
Merck's antiviral pill, used in China, is causing drug-specific COVID virus mutations.
A file photo of Merck’s Lagevrio pill molnupiravir in January of 2022 in Bari, Italy. The drug is the Chinese Communist Party’s choice of COVID-19 antiviral pill, but has been shown to cause drug-specific mutations, according to a UK study funded by the Wellcome Trust. (Image: Donato Fasano/Getty Images)

One of the two most mainstream antiviral pills to combat SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), is causing new and unique viral mutations, a well-backed study recently submitted for peer review has uncovered.

The pill, Merck’s molnupiravir — marketed as Lageviro — was approved by the Chinese Communist Party’s National Medical Products Association (NMPA) at the end of 2022 as Xi Jinping finally dropped the “Zero-COVID” lockdown, contact tracing, QR code passport, and daily testing regimen.

The study, submitted to MedRxiv for peer review on Jan. 27 by researchers from Liverpool, Cambridge, and London, scanned worldwide COVID sequencing databases looking for specific recombinatory traits that showcase “potential hallmarks” from human viral hosts who have taken the drug.


An October of 2021 article published on the Yale Medicine website explains that molnupiravir works in the following way, “The coronavirus uses RNA as its genetic material. The structure of molnupiravir resembles the nucleosides (or chemical building blocks) used to make the virus’s RNA. The drug works by incorporating itself into the RNA as it’s being synthesized.”

The team explained the significance of attempting to isolate specific recombinatory catalysts, like molnupiravir, because, “It has been proposed that many major SARS-CoV-2 variants emerged from long-term chronic infections.”

“This model explains several peculiarities of variants such as a general lack of genetic intermediates, rooting with much older sequences, long phylogenetic branch lengths, and the level of convergent evolution with known chronic infections,” the authors continue.

In a concrete example, the Omicron variant, which replaced the Delta variant as the worldwide variant of concern at the end of 2021, was uniquely characterized by having an almost totally separate spike protein from Delta and the original Wuhan SARS-CoV-2.

Moreover, Omicron was a puzzle for international virologists as its emergence in South Africa appeared to come out of the blue with no link to other variants.

Omicron also carried specific — presumably naturally evolved — gain of function characteristics, such as a higher rate of transmissibility, and more importantly, being so evasive to the original experimental gene therapy COVID vaccines that the vaccinated were often found to be more likely to contract infection from Omicron than the unvaccinated.

Clearly linked

The researchers concretely found that recombinant branches with the desired molnupiravir-specific characteristics “were predominantly sampled from a small number of countries, which could not be explained by differences in sequencing efforts.”

Those countries — and the time of their emergence — they determined, were those that had issued an emergency authorization for molnupiravir, such as Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States in early 2022.

However, nations such as France and Canada, which did not authorize Merck’s drug for emergency use, lack evidence of drug-specific recombination in their sequencing data, the team also found.

Researchers also cross-checked their findings against a separate sequencing database that included COVID patients who received a molnupiravir placebo.

The crosscheck confirmed the original findings.

The team stated that molnupiravir takers, “…exhibited significantly higher mutational burdens than patients treated with placebo,” and that, “The spectrum of mutations was highly different between placebo and molnupiravir.”

The finding is significant, considering that molnupiravir (Lagevrio) is the antiviral pill chosen by the Chinese Communist Party’s socialized healthcare system for distribution.

Well backed

The study, albeit pending peer review, has significant backers, disclosing funding was received from the Wellcome Trust.

Investigative journalists Unlimited Hangout have described the Wellcome Trust as an entity powerful enough it was “second only to Bill Gates in its ability to influence events during the COVID-19 crisis and vaccination campaign,” in addition to being a formal partner of the globalist policy initiative World Economic Forum.

A March of 2020 article on the WEF’s website stated that the Wellcome Trust had joined forces with the Forum to “invite[d] corporations and investment funds, as well as individual business leaders with philanthropic capacity, to play a part in this society-wide effort and donate funds” to participate in what was ultimately — and inauspiciously — called the “COVID-Zero” initiative.

The Party’s choice

In September of 2022, website Fiercepharma stated that, while competing against Pfizer and its Paxlovid antiviral, Merck granted the Party’s Sinopharm exclusive rights for distribution in the mainland.

But it wasn’t until December, amid a new cascade of infections and deaths plaguing the regime and Chinese citizens, that the NMPA finally gave Merck a “conditional emergency approval for treating mild and moderate infections among adults at risk of progressing to severe disease,” according to Bloomberg reporting.

The government’s move to officially offer the drug is significant, as less than 1 percent of Chinese citizens carry private or commercial health insurance under a socialized healthcare mandate that consumes an average of 35 percent of a worker’s income.

Incentives and disincentives

For Merck, the move was a windfall, especially as the Party is reported to have declined to accept Pfizer’s competing Paxlovid antiviral.

Reporting from Radio Free Asia in mid-January stated that the National Healthcare Security Administration had demanded a bargain basement price of 200 yuan per box (~$30 USD) if Pfizer wanted to move their pill.

Pfizer declined to provide the discount.

Yet, a Jan. 16 Bloomberg article cited a Chinese-language state-run media article as stating that Molnupiravir was being sold for 1,500 yuan (~$225 USD) per bottle.

Q4/Fiscal Year 2022 financials published by Merck for shareholders showed that the China market amounted to 9.8 percent of the company’s sales, clocking in at $5.4 billion.

The Chinese market is the third-largest market for Merck, behind only Europe and the United States at 21 and 48.1 percent respectively.

Merck’s pill, which was created by U.S. government funding, was sold to the Biden Administration in October of 2021 in a size of 1.7 million patient courses at a price of $700 each, costing taxpayers almost $1.2 billion.

The figure was in astonishing contrast to an analysis by a Harvard University and a King’s College of London researcher conducted in the same month on what it would cost to make the drug generically. 

The pair found that component substances were widely available for export from India and would allow molnupiravir to be synthesized at a cost as low as $4.35 per patient course, for a total taxpayer burden of only $7.4 million USD.

Fog of war

Ultimately, in terms of the real world impact of the molnupiravir-linked mutations, the team found that the sequences cataloged in worldwide databases were far from being at risk of becoming either a variant of concern or the dominant variant of SARS-CoV-2.

“At the time of writing we have not identified a molnupiravir-implicated cluster that had spread to more than 21 individuals,” they noted.

Yet, as the pandemic continues to quietly burn inside of mainland China, data that would reveal the true situation to the world is still heavily censored by the Communist Party.

One of the last articles on the topic of Chinese mutations was on Jan. 13 and published by Bloomberg,

One of the last articles on the topic of Chinese mutations was on Jan. 13 and published by Bloomberg, which stated, “China has yet to detect any dangerous Covid mutations in the six weeks since the virus was unleashed on the country’s 1.4 billion people.”

Bloomberg characterized Xi’s Zero-COVID as “the rigid curbs that held the pathogen largely at bay.”

The narrative was continued by a Feb. 8 study published in The Lancet by scientists from China’s CDC. The study stated that based on data analyzed, no new variants had emerged in the mainland.

However, the authors were candid to admit that they had sampled a marginal 2,994 “complete SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences” gathered from 413 samples, which were composed of “350 local cases and 63 imported cases.”

Yet according to Our World in Data, the CCP reported a spike of approximately 130,000 new COVID-19 cases between Dec. 14, 2022 and Jan. 9, 2023.

And since Jan. 10, the Party has not reported even a single new case.

Yet, over the same period of time, the number of total COVID deaths the Communist Party alleges China has suffered suddenly grew from 5,273 to 87,468 on Feb. 4, but has not increased since.

The figure as reported amounts to 61.34 deaths per million people, based on a Google-reported population of 1.412 billion.

To contrast the numeral, Australia and its 25.69 million residents have reported a population-adjusted COVID casualty count of 719.25 deaths per million people.

Black market

As Chinese citizens suffer the severe illness and death brought by the pandemic, a demand for drugs that can protect or cure the disease is created, regardless of if they can be obtained through official Communist Party channels.

A Jan. 16 report by Time Magazine stated that the regime had publicized multiple cases of men returning from countries such as India and Thailand who were arrested for attempting to smuggle more than 10,000 pills of Primovir and Paxista, the generic versions of Paxlovid and molnupiravir.

“Both Paxlovid and Molnupiravir are being sold for as much as eight times the market price on the black market,” the article stated.

The situation had been persisting since at least the end of 2022, Bloomberg stated in a Dec. 21 article citing a Shanghai-based propaganda outlet, which said “an unidentified white-collar worker in Guangdong paid 5,800 yuan ($830) to a Hong Kong agent for a box of Paxlovid, more than double the official price in mainland China.”

Bloomberg continued to cite the outlet as stating that “purchasing agents have sold more than 50,000 boxes of foreign generic antivirals since the government’s first tentative steps toward easing Covid Zero in November.”