As remarkable as the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines has been, drugmakers and those who regulate them need to be careful to not fall victim to hubris.
The race to create effective vaccines has been replaced by a race to create effective treatments for those who contract the virus. These developments are encouraging, but they should be approached cautiously.
Merck, for example, has developed a pill that appears to be somewhat effective in treating COVID-19’s worst complications. There are some risks, however, the biggest being that the pill in rare cases could cause birth defects and possibly spur more violent strains of the virus.
Until those possibilities are ruled out, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration should be leery about approving the drug.
Almost all medicines have side effects. When the side effects are less dangerous than the disease, it’s a tradeoff worth making. At this point, there’s not enough information on the Merck pill to tell.