Health On the Hill Politics

Health Department Official Fired For Speaking Out Against Hydroxychloroquine

Rick Bright, the official who previously led the federal agency involved in working to develop a coronavirus vaccine was removed from his position after urging caution and research before advocating for hydroxychloroquine.

As the Trump administration pushed for the anti-malaria drug to be used in treating patients with coronavirus, Dr. Bright denounced these actions as putting “politics and cronyism ahead of science.” Bright was then dismissed from his role of director of Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), as well as removed from his position as deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response. He was given a “narrower job” at the National Institutes of Health.

Following his removal, Dr. Bright, who earned his Ph.D. in both immunology and molecular pathogenesis from Emory University, released a statement criticizing the leadership of the health department. In this statement, Dr. Bright explained that he had been pressured to direct money towards hydroxychloroquine, “one of several potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those political connections,” though described by the president and members of his administration as a “game changer” in the search for a cure for the virus.

“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.” Dr Bright concluded, “I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus, science-not politics or cronyism-has to lead the way.”

Encouragement surrounding the use of hydroxychloroquine came as the death toll in the United States began to rapidly climb, but there is no hard evidence that shows the drug is effective against COVID-19.

Sources: NY Times 04/22/2020; NY Times 04/23/2020

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