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April 24, 2020

Ex-BARDA chief claims was ousted over opposition to hydroxychloroquine

By Allie Nawrat

Earlier this week, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HSS)’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) director Rick Bright was moved to a job in the National Institutes of Health.

BARDA is central to the US government’s efforts to developing drugs and vaccines against Covid-19; last week, the authority committed $483m to Moderna’s vaccine candidate against the novel coronavirus.

Bright has now filed a whistleblower complaint against HHS for this action, which he claims was politically motivated. In a statement published by CNN, Bright wrote: “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. I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus, science — not politics or cronyism — has to lead the way.”

He particularly singled out his questioning of antimalarial drug, hydroxychloroquine, a drug that President Trump has described as a ‘game changer’ despite limited evidence suggesting it is safe and effective for Covid-19 patients.

Bright stated: “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. While I am prepared to look at all options and to think “outside the box” for effective treatments, I rightly resisted efforts to provide an unproven drug on demand to the American public.”

Bright’s former deputy at BARDA Gary Disbrow will now serve as acting director, according to STAT.

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