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Ousted chief of BARDA says Trump administration ignored COVID-19 warnings

Published on 06/05/20 at 10:33am
Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

Ousted Director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), Dr Rick Bright, alleges the Trump administration ignored warnings about the severity of the coronavirus.

Much of his complaints, and what he believes led to him being ousted, was the administration pushing hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine as a coronavirus treatment.

Bright filed a complaint through his lawyers with the US Office of the Special Counsel which read: “Dr Bright acted with urgency to begin to address this pandemic but encountered resistance from HHS (Health and Human Services) leadership, including Secretary Azar, who appeared intent on downplaying this catastrophic threat.”

Bright said that the Trump administration continually rejected his warnings that the virus would spread in the US and they failed to stock up on personal protective equipment (PPE).

In regards to hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, Bright himself has said he “witnessed government leadership rushing blindly into a potentially dangerous situation by bringing in a non-FDA approved chloroquine from Pakistan and India, from facilities that had never been approved by the FDA.

“Their eagerness to push blindly forward without sufficient data to put this drug into the hands of Americans was alarming to me and my fellow scientists.”

The Trump administration tried to push Bright into a smaller role at the National Institutes of Health but he has been on sick leave, and has not started at his new post.

Bright’s most significant accusation comes as he said that the “past few years have been challenging” as “time after time I was pressured to ignore or dismiss expert and scientific recommendations and instead to award lucrative contracts based on political connections.” In particular, Bright feels this was the case with the stockpiling of the hydroxychloroquine which is still an unproven potential treatment for COVID-19.

BARDA was created in 2006, and partners with the pharmaceutical industry to develop treatments to counter pandemics and biological or chemical attacks.

Conor Kavanagh

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