On Wednesday, April 22, Rick Bright, former director of the United States Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), said he was ousted and replaced as a result of speaking out against the Trump administration’s desire to push hydroxychloroquine as a cure for COVID-19 – the disease caused by the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2).
There have been over 2.7 million novel coronavirus cases recorded worldwide and the disease has claimed the lives of over 190,000 people.
On Thursday, Bright’s lawyers stated their intention of filing a whistleblower’s complaint with two government offices over his reassignment, the US Office of Special Counsel (OSC) – an independent government agency that has the prerogative to prosecute federal employees – and the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The OIG’s stated mission is to protect the integrity of HHS programs as well as the health and welfare of program beneficiaries.
A statement issued by Bright’s lawyers reads: “In our filing, we will make clear that Dr. Bright was sidelined for one reason only – because he resisted efforts to provide unfettered access to potentially dangerous drugs, including chloroquine, a drug promoted by the administration as a panacea, but which is untested and possibly deadly when used improperly.” Bright has hopes to be reinstated in his previous position once his side is understood, according to his lawyers.
Until recently, US President Donald Trump has advocated for the potential of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients.
However, since a study was released showing patients at US Veterans Health Administration (VHA) medical centers taking the drug were no less likely to need ventilation and, in fact, reportedly had higher fatality rates, conservative media outlets as well as the president have ceased publicizing the drug altogether.
As of now, the US remains the worst-hit nation by the virus. Until recently, tensions flared between the state and federal governments on when to ease lockdown regulations, with Trump stating a concern for the depressed economy and governors anxious over reigniting the effects of the virus. Unemployment has also surged, and over four million individuals were reportedly added to the staggering figures last week.
Amid the angst, the US government reportedly aims to increase stimulus plans to bolster the struggling economy, with the most recent being a US$484 billion coronavirus relief bill passed by the US House of Representatives on Thursday. The bill will be dedicated to funding small businesses and hospitals, and will push the total spending response to the crisis to an unprecedented near US$3 trillion.