The Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA) has issued a statement lambasting the OGYÉI, Hungary’s food and drug administration authority, for pressing charges against those who criticized the antiviral drug, favipiravir. The MTA said that the scientists who are working in cooperation with them will be protected.
“It is in the nature of science to be open to doubt and debate, which especially when exploring a new phenomenon that is as yet unknown, should not be hindered, but should be given a proper place and structure instead.”
This is why the decision of the National Institute of Pharmacy and Nutrition (OGYÉI) to file a police report on certain press reports featuring scientists about favipiravir, was a cause for concern. The charges are contrary to the principles of the academy and therefore unacceptable, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA) said on Tuesday.
MTA’s statement comes on the heels of the decision by OGYÉI to press charges for “scaremongering”, because according to the group, articles containing “misleading statements” about favipiravir medicines appeared in various online media outlets between December 2021 and January 2022. These statements, OGYÉI claims, may hinder the effectiveness of the protection against the coronavirus epidemic.
Although OGYÉI did not specify which articles it was referring to, given the scarce amount of Hungarian news pieces published about the antiviral medication during the given period, it is not hard to identify them.
The story has created a huge backlash in the scientific community. Many voiced their outrage over OGYÉI pressing charges instead of challenging these opinions with a scientific debate.
FactThe President of the MTA called for a meeting of its senior officials and members, after which a resolution was adopted. The document also addresses the effectiveness of favipiravir itself: “the scientific literature suggests that the antiviral effectiveness of favipiravir is limited, depending on when treatment is started and for how long, and on the dose used. As a result, many experts are calling for favipiravir treatment to be replaced by new antiviral medicines. They are calling for its replacement by Molnupiravir and Paxlovid, which, according to published test results, are more effective at lower doses than favipiravir.”
In response to the charges, the academy stated that if the drug authority raises the accusation of “scaremongering” against scientists who have made comments in the press, then their actions are unfounded and unacceptable. According to MTA, official procedure against scientists for their professional opinions expressed in the press should be avoided at all costs.
The Academy of Sciences also stated that scientists and researchers who participate in scientific debates within the aegis of the MTA, in cooperation with the MTA, according to the rules of scientific reasoning, and who take into account the principles, the different legal and ethical rules governing the various types of expression, as well as the relevant decisions of the elected leaders and bodies of the MTA, and thus continue their activities, can count on the protection of the MTA if they are attacked for their scientific opinions.
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