Almost lost in last week’s blockbuster release of Omicron: Fear and Loathing — The Rise of the Next Variant was an FDA panel’s recommendation that a drug named molnupiravir be given Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).
The drug would be the first of its kind, a treatment for COVID that can be taken at home, as a pill. Its most well-recognized “relative” might be the anti-influenza pill Tamiflu (oseltamivir), which works by blocking the influenza virus’ ability to exit an infected cell. If taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms, Tamiflu has been shown to reduce the intensity and complications of the flu, and perhaps even death.
Molnupiravir (Lagevrio) works a little differently. The virus mistakenly inserts a metabolite of the drug into its RNA — as if an extra number or symbol were inserted into one of your computer passwords. The substitution causes the virus to produce mutated versions of itself, calamitously referred to as “viral error catastrophe.” With no meaningful viral replication, the flame goes out.
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