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BARDA director abruptly leaves post, claims he was ousted over pushback to hydroxychloroquine

Published on 23/04/20 at 10:42am
Photo by Sarah Stierch

Rick Bright has claimed that he has been forced out of his position as the Director of the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency.

He was reassigned to a small role at the National Institutes of Health working on hastening the development of COVID-19 treatments.

In a statement, Bright said: “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.”

Bright also said that he believes he was dismissed due to him resisting “efforts to fund potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections.”

Bright also believes his pushback against the Trump administration’s focus on hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment was part of the reason for his dismissal.

President Donald Trump has constantly touted the anti-malaria drug as a treatment for coronavirus. In late March, he tweeted that the drug was one of the “biggest game changers in the history of medicine” and hopefully the FDA would “move fast” to approve the drug. Trump later said people have “nothing to lose” by taking it.

The US government has stockpiled millions of pills of hydroxychloroquine and it has been used in COVID-19 patients in New York. However, recent studies in Brazil, France and China show that the drug is potentially life-threatening.

Discussing his move from BARDA, a Department of Health and Human Services told The Hill: “Given the simultaneous importance of accelerating the development of diagnostic tests for COVID-19, Dr. Rick Bright will transfer the skills he has applied as Director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to the National Institutes of Health, as part of a bold plan to accelerate the development and deployment of novel point-of-care testing platforms.”

Through his attorneys, Bright will request that the Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General investigate his removal and will ask the Office of Special Counsel to seek a stay of his termination. Bright has been with the organisation since 2010, initially serving as the agency’s head for influenza and emerging infectious diseases. Bright has led the agency since 2016.

Conor Kavanagh

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