The phone call in March from President Trump’s adviser carried an urgent message.
For days Trump had touted the off-label use of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a potential cure for covid-19, despite a lack of scientific evidence it worked and amid mounting concerns about the dangers to patients with underlying medical conditions.
Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro wanted to make sure the administration’s top vaccine expert would be on board with a White House plan to distribute the unproven drug to hard-hit cities.
“The first thing out of his mouth was, ‘I want to know what team you are on,’ ” recalled Rick Bright, who at the time was responsible for stockpiling drugs for medical emergencies as director of the federal Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.
The immunologist, who later filed a whistleblower complaint against the administration, said in an interview with The Washington Post that he told Navarro he was on the side of medical evidence. Navarro, Bright said, replied, “I won’t hold it against you, but we need to move this forward.” Navarro declined to comment on Bright’s account.
The White House decision to set aside the mandatory safety controls put in place by the Food and Drug Administration fueled one of the most disputed initiatives in the administration’s response to the pandemic: the distribution of millions of ineffective, potentially dangerous pills from a federally controlled cache of drugs called the Strategic National Stockpile. [Continue reading…]