Ousted Health Official Says Trump Ignored Coronavirus Warnings

Date: 2020-05-06 06:57:52

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Rick Bright, a top U.S. health official, who said he was ousted over his concerns regarding a drug pushed by the Trump administration for the coronavirus also clashed repeatedly with his superiors over other issues related to the pandemic, according to a whistleblower complaint the official filed Tuesday.

Rick Bright, who had served as the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority until the end of last month, disagreed with his supervisors at the Department of Health and Human Services over the seriousness of the threat of the novel coronavirus, shortages of protective gear and contracts that went to companies with political connections.

Attorneys for Bright filed the complaint with the Office of Special Counsel. The document says Bright’s former boss, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, created a culture of cronyism that didn’t emphasize scientific data.

Bright, who was moved to a less visible role at the National Institutes of Health, wants to remain as BARDA director.

Bright pushed to make the drugs available only in a limited pilot and then worked with the FDA’s Janet Woodcock, who leads the agency’s drug center, to craft an emergency authorization for the drug that limited it to hospitalized patients. The emergency authorization “would better protect patients by enabling physicians to closely monitor their progress in a hospital setting and treat any side effects of the drug,” according to the complaint.

Bright also says he tried to warn HHS Secretary Alex Azar and other officials about the seriousness of the virus and the nation’s lack of preparedness on January 23. He was later told that raising his concerns and pushing for federal funds for BARDA created a controversy and offended HHS leadership.

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