Rick Bright, a government scientist, is coming forward after he claims that he was ousted by after warning the Trump administration about both the spread of COVID-19 and hydroxychloroquine, the drug that was praised by Donald Trump as a treatment for the coronavirus, according to a complaint filed on Tuesday with the Office of Special Counsel. This government agency oversees whistleblower complaints.
According to Bright’s complaint, the Trump administration rejected his early warnings on COVID-19. Bright said he “acted with urgency” to combat the growing spread of the deadly disease after the World Health Organization issued a warning in January. However, he “encountered resistance from HHS leadership, including Health and Human Services Secretary (Alex) Azar, who appeared intent on downplaying this catastrophic event.”
The former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority alleged in the complaint that political appointees at the Department of Health and Human Services tried to promote hydroxychloroquine “as a panacea.” Cities with high cases of the coronavirus were to receive the drug immediately, saying that officials “demanded that New York and New Jersey be ‘flooded’ with these drugs, which were imported from factories in Pakistan and India that had not been inspected by the FDA.” Ultimately, once it was apparent that Bright would not allow the widespread distribution of the drug, he was reassigned to a lesser role.
In March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning to doctors against prescribing the drug outside of research purposes. The warning came after fatal heart side effects among coronavirus patients being treated with hydroxychloroquine, and the related drug chloroquine had been reported.
The disgraced Trump administration has come under intense scrutiny over its response to the pandemic, which has resulted in 1.2 million confirmed cases in the United States and over 70,000 deaths.