The doctor in charge of a federal department that is responsible for developing a vaccine to the coronavirus claims he was removed for limiting the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as treatments for the virus.
Dr. Rick Bright, the former head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), told The New York Times he believes he was removed from his position for limiting the use of those two drugs — which President Donald Trump has repeatedly touted as potential cures for the virus.
Bright, who was removed this week, was given a narrower position at the National Institutes of Health (NIH.)
“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,” Bright said in a statement to the Times.
He added, “I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus, science — not politics or cronyism — has to lead the way.”
Neither the White House nor the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) responded to the Times’ story.
Bright, who led the agency since 2016, said, “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. To this point, I have led the government’s efforts to invest in the best science available to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Additionally, he said that he frequently clashed with HHS leadership over directives to allow widespread use of the drugs, “I limited the broad use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, promoted by the administration as a panacea, but which clearly lack scientific merit.”
Bright continued to say he sought to restrict the use of the drugs, typically used to treat malaria, for patients who were hospitalized with the virus, “I insisted that these drugs be provided only to hospitalized patients with confirmed COVID-19 while under the supervision of a physician.”
He noted the potential risks associated with the drugs, “These drugs have potentially serious risks associated with them, including increased mortality observed in some recent studies in patients with Covid-19.”
“Sidelining me in the middle of this pandemic and placing politics and cronyism ahead of science puts lives at risk and stunts national efforts to safely and effectively address this urgent public health crisis,” he added.
He also said he would call for an inspector general review of the “manner in which this administration has politicized the work of BARDA and has pressured me and other conscientious scientists to fund companies with political connections and efforts that lack scientific merit.”
Additionally, Bright said he hired a pair of lawyers who represented Christine Blasey Ford during the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
The Times’ story comes as a panel at NIH recommended against that use of a pair of the drugs Trump has touted as “game-changer” for treatment of the coronavirus.