Pfizer’s headquarters in New York City ( AFP / Don Emmert)

Posts falsely claim Pfizer drug treats Covid-19 vaccine side effect

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Social media posts claim Pfizer is profiting from myocarditis caused by its Covid-19 vaccine through a drug it sells that treats inflammation of the heart, which has been reported as a rare side effect of the shots. But the drug referenced in the posts treats a different heart disease, according to the pharmaceutical company, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and an independent cardiologist.

"Sales of Pfizer drug for myocarditis treatment, Vyndamax, are up 77% in the US. strong cross sell strategy, destroy peoples hearts with their vax and cure it with their other drug," an October 24, 2021 tweet says.

Screenshot taken on November 1, 2020 of a tweet

The same claim can be found on Facebook and Instagram. Similar claims also circulated in French and were debunked by AFP Factuel.

The claims spread online as health authorities in the United States were meeting to discuss the authorization the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA Covid-19 vaccine for children aged 5-11. Myocarditis and pericarditis (heart inflammation and inflammation around the heart) have been reported as rare side effects of the shot, more often impacting younger males, but the FDA said "the benefits of the vaccine would outweigh its risks" for children.

The posts are correct that Pfizer reported a 77 percent growth in sales for its drug Vyndamax in its 2021 second quarter results, but the drug is not used for myocarditis cases, which are treated with different medicines.

Pfizer told AFP on October 27 that Vyndamax and a similar drug Vyndaquel are "not indicated for myocarditis." It was approved by the FDA in 2019 to treat "the heart disease (cardiomyopathy) caused by transthyretin mediated amyloidosis (ATTR-CM) in adults."

According to the Cleveland Clinic, an academic medical center in the US, "transthyretin, also called TTR, is a protein made by the liver that helps carry thyroid hormone and vitamin A in the blood. Normally, TTR is made up of four identical parts. However, in ATTR amyloidosis, the protein becomes unstable, breaks apart, and deposits in the heart and/or the nerves."

Vyndamax is a medication to help stabilize the TTR protein.

Dariouch Dolatabadi, cardiologist at the University Hospital of Charleroi in Belgium, also said on October 27 that the rare heart disease treated by Vyndamax "has absolutely nothing to do with the vaccine against Covid-19."

He explained that ATTR is not caused by inflammation of the heart. In a patient suffering from ATTR, the heart can become up to two or three times thicker and they might experience an irregular heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation.

Dolatabadi also said that a patient will not suffer ATTR as a secondary effect of a medication. In some cases, the condition is hereditary and the mutation in the DNA can be passed from one generation to the next.

Myocarditis risks

Cases of myocarditis have been reported to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) following vaccination. On its website, the CDC says the onset of symptoms has more often been reported after the second dose of an mRNA vaccine and occurs within days of vaccination. It also says: "Most patients with myocarditis or pericarditis who received care responded well to medicine and rest and felt better quickly."

The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices continues to recommend the vaccine to everyone age 12 and older. It said in a July 2021 report that "per million second doses of mRNA Covid-19 vaccine administered to males aged 12–29 years, 11,000 Covid-19 cases, 560 hospitalizations, 138 ICU admissions, and six deaths due to Covid-19 could be prevented, compared with 39-47 expected myocarditis cases after Covid-19 vaccination."

In monitoring for myocarditis, Canada found a higher risk associated with the Moderna Covid-19 shot than Pfizer. This rare risk has held up approval of the Moderna vaccine for teenagers in the United States. The company said on October 31 that it was notified by the FDA that the government needed "additional time to evaluate recent international analyses of the risk of myocarditis after vaccination."

Asked about myocarditis, Dolatabadi said: "The risk of myocarditis for a Covid infection is much higher than that linked to the vaccine, so the benefit-risk ratio of anti-Covid vaccination in a country where the virus continues to circulate remains positive."

The CDC found that for patients from March 2020 to January 2021, an infection with Covid-19 increased the risk for myocarditis by nearly 16 times compared with patients who were not infected.

AFP Fact Check has reported on other misinformation about vaccines here.

Translated by
COVID-19 VACCINES