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HHS whistle-blower says he was demoted for resisting 'toxic' COVID-19 treatment

HHS whistle-blower says he was demoted for resisting 'toxic' COVID-19 treatment
Rick Bright said he warned the administration about hydroxychloroquine's potentially toxic and harmful effects on patients. UPI File Photo | License Photo

May 5 (UPI) -- Rick Bright, the former head of the federal agency tasked with procuring medical products, released a whistle-blower report Tuesday saying he was ousted from the job for raising concerns over a drug pushed by President Donald Trump.

Bright said he was transferred from his role as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to a job at the National Institutes of Health on April 20.

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The complaint said the reassignment came after Bright resisted efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services to make "potentially harmful drugs widely available, including chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine," both of which Trump touted as a "game changer" during press briefings.

Clinical trials for the anti-malarial drugs haven't been promising, though, and Bright said he warned the administration against promoting their use by the general public due to dangerous side effects. A Veterans Affairs study released April 21 found that COVID-19 patients treated with hydroxychloroquine were more likely to die than those who weren't.

"Dr. Bright was removed as BARDA director and deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response in the midst of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic because his efforts to prioritize science and safety over political expediency and to expose practices that posed a substantial risk to public health and safety, especially as it applied to chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, rankled those in the administration who wished to continue to push this false narrative," the complaint said.

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Bright said he's also observed evidence of "cronyism and award of contracts to companies with political connections to the administration" since 2017, when Trump came into office. He said in 2017, for example, he was pressured to extend a "failed" contract to Aeolus Pharmaceuticals, whose CEO was a friend of Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner.

Bright also accused HHS Secretary Alex Azar of resisting his efforts to push developing resources in response to the COVID-19 outbreak in January.

U.S. copes with COVID-19 pandemic

Bass Pro Shops marketing manager David Smith (R) carries a box of donated face masks into Mercy Health in Chesterfield, Mo., on May 13. The company is donating 1 million FDA-approved ASTM Level 1 Procedure Face Masks to healthcare workers and first responders working on the front lines of the pandemic. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

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