A doctor who was recently demoted from directing an agency inside of the Department of Health of Human Services (HHS) says the move was made because of his stance on hydroxychloroquine, a drug being tested against COVID-19.
Dr. Rick Bright was head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), an agency involved in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine and analyzing existing and experimental treatments against the new disease. He was removed from his role in recent days and shifted to a position at the National Institutes of Health.
In a statement released through his attorneys Wednesday night, Bright claimed the 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.”
Bright said he “resisted efforts to fund potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections,” singling out hydroxychloroquine, a decades-old drug thats approved for treating malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Hydroxychloroquine has shown promise in some small studies and is being prescribed by doctors in multiple countries, including the United States. Large clinical trials are underway in America and elsewhere. It is working on some groups of veterans, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie said on Wednesday.
Perception of the drug became tainted for some when President Donald Trump touted it as a possible COVID-19 treatment last month.
“Specifically, and contrary to misguided directives, I limited the broad use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, promoted by the administration as a panacea, but which clearly lack scientific merit,” Bright said in his statement.
The former BARDA director said he was prepared to examine all options and think “outside the box” for effective treatments against COVID-19, but described hydroxychloroquine as “an unproven demand” that shouldnt be given “on demand to the American public.”
“I insisted that these drugs be provided only to hospitalized patients with confirmed COVID-19 while under the supervision of a physician,” he said, noting that several recent studies highlighted the side effects of hydroxychloroquine and the closely related chloroquine.
Brights past experience includes working at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the biotechnology industry, and as an adviser to the World Health Organization.
A letter (pdf) to Bright from Food and Drug Administration Chief Scientist Denise Hinton was sent in March in response to Brights request that the agency issue an emergency use authorization for chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, Hinton wrote.
The agency authorized emergency use of the drugs for treatment of COVID-19 when clinical trials are not available or participation in the trials isnt feasible.
“Based on the totality of scientific evidence available to FDA, it is reasonable to believe that chloroquine phosphate and hydroxychloroquine sulfate may be effective in treating COVID-19,” Hinton wrote, adding, “When used under the conditions described in this authorization, the known and potential benefits of chloroquine phosphate and hydroxychloroquine sulfate when used to treat COVID-19 outweigh the known and potential risks of such products.”
A day later, HHS announced it had accepted the donation of 30 million hydroxychloroquine doses for the Strategic National Stockpile. Distribution of the doses began earlier this month.
HHS spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley told The Epoch Times in an email that Bright requested emergency use authorization for donations of chloroquine that companies made to the stockpile. The authorization “is what made the donated product available for use in combating COVID-19,” she said.
COVID-19 is a new disease caused by the the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, a novel coronavirus that emerged in China last year.