Ex-BARDA chief claims was ousted over opposition to hydroxychloroquine

Allie Nawrat 24 April 2020 (Last Updated April 24th, 2020 09:03)

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.