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VERIFY | Merck's COVID-19 pill doesn't contain Ivermectin

If approved, Molnupiravir would be the first antiviral COVID pill.

NEW ORLEANS — A pill that you take at home to treat COVID-19 could be weeks away.

Monday, drugmaker Merck asked the FDA to authorize a pill that they say cuts hospitalizations and death from COVID by half.

But now there are new rumors on social media claiming the pill is nothing more than repackaged Ivermectin.

Is that true or false?

U.S. government scientists are combing over data from Merck right now. 

The pharmaceutical company says its new investigational pill is a game changer if you catch the coronavirus. Its study suggest if you have mild or moderate COVID symptoms, the oral drug, Molnupiravir, inhibits the virus from making copies of itself inside your body. A lower viral load could mean you don't get as sick. 

The company says it cut the number of patients who went to the hospital or died, in half. If approved, it would be the first antiviral COVID pill.

Other medications are infused by IV in a hospital setting.  

It works like prescription Tamiflu does on flu viruses, but now rumors on social media claim the pill is nothing more than repackaged Ivermectin. That's the controversial decades-old drug made to treat parasites. And there is a big divide, even among some doctors, when it comes to using it to treat COVID.

So, for answers on if this rumor is true or false, we turned to Dr. Christopher Williams, Associate Professor of Pharmacology at Xavier University and Chair of the Division of Basic Pharmaceutical Sciences.

“There's no foundation to that rumor that Ivermectin and the new compound is anything similar," Dr. Williams explained. "They are completely dissimilar. The structures are completely different, the mechanisms of action are very different."

So, did the rumor start because Merck has been making Ivermectin since 1975?

“Somebody suspected that because the makers are the same, that there was some profit motive behind Merck kind of repackaging Ivermectin to be something else, and that's just 100 percent not true, there's no foundation to that," Dr. Williams said.

Dr. Williams adds everything in the new drug has to be submitted and validated before clinical trials. The compounds become public record and he says Merck has agreed to make Molnupiravir available to generic manufacturers to help end the pandemic.

“So, there's no reason to hide anything from them right now,” Dr. Williams said.

We contacted Merck pharmaceutical company by phone and E-mail to ask about this claim, but did not hear back from the company.