Matt Taibbi says Merck COVID-19 antiviral pill 'could have been out a lot earlier'

Journalist Matt Taibbi, who is a co-host of the “Useful Idiots” podcast, said on Thursday that allegations made in a whistleblower complaint caused the release of Merck’s COVID-19 antiviral pill to be delayed, contending that it “could have been out a lot earlier.”

Taibbi, during an appearance on Hill.TV’s “Rising,” said a whistleblower complaint filed by the head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), claiming that the antiviral drug was rushed because of cronyism, caused the department to shelve the pill.

Merck announced last week that it plans to seek emergency use authorization for its oral antiviral COVID-19 treatment after clinical trials showed it reduces hospitalization by 50 percent.

“The problem was this was taking place in the middle of a massive, sort of, bureaucratic infighting issue between two wings of the health bureaucracy,” Taibbi said.

“The head of BARDA ended up bowing out and filing a whistleblower complaint that among other things included accusations that this drug was being rushed because of cronyism. So as a result, this drug ended up getting shelved,” he added.

Taibbi said it was “luck” that Merck eventually picked up the drug.

“There was no funding for it and it was only luck that, basically, that Merck picked it up about a month later, two months later, and that's why we have the drug now,” he said.

“But it could have been out a lot earlier,” he added.