A top researcher leading the federal agency developing a coronavirus vaccine said he was abruptly removed from his position after questioning the Trump-touted malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a potential coronavirus treatment.
Dr. Rick Bright, an immunologist who served as the head of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), was dismissed and removed as the deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response this week, The New York Times reported.
Bright says he was fired over hydroxychloroquine:
Bright said in a statement that he was pressured to direct money toward hydroxychloroquine, one of several “potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections.”
“I believe this transfer was in response to my insistence that the government invest the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the Covid-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit,” he said. “I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus, science — not politics or cronyism — has to lead the way.”
“My professional background has prepared me for a moment like this — to confront and defeat a deadly virus that threatens Americans and people around the globe,” he wrote. “To this point, I have led the government’s efforts to invest in the best science available to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.”
“Unfortunately, this resulted in clashes with H.H.S. political leadership, including criticism for my proactive efforts to invest early into vaccines and supplies critical to saving American lives. I also resisted efforts to fund potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections,” he said, adding that the drug was “promoted by the administration as a panacea, but which clearly lack scientific merit.”
Trump admin denies:
President Trump said he never heard of Bright at Wednesday’s news briefing. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the country, said Bright would now work in a more limited role at the NIH, focused on testing.
Administration officials told The Times that Bright was ousted after clashing with Dr. Robert Kadlec, the assistant health secretary for preparedness and response.
Officials said Bright was a “polarizing figure” within HHS and described his management style as “confrontational.”
“Dr. Bright has departed BARDA to N.I.H., where he’ll work on development and deployment of novel point-of-care testing platforms,” said HHS spokeswoman Carolyn Oakley. “As it relates to chloroquine, it was Dr. Bright who requested an Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for donations of chloroquine that Bayer and Sandoz recently made to the Strategic National Stockpile for use on Covid-19 patients. The E.U.A. is what made the donated product available for use in combating Covid-19.”