US vaccine chief ousted after opposing White House’s push anti-malaria drug as corona panacea

A senior US government doctor who worked on the search for a coronavirus vaccine said he was fired after opposing president Donald Trump’s push to use the hydroxychloroquine drug as a treatment, US media reported on Wednesday.

Rick Bright was the director of the US health department’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or Barda, and as the deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response.

He rejected using hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug promoted by Trump despite a lack of scientific studies: “Specifically, and contrary to misguided directives, I limited the broad use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, promoted by the administration as a panacea, but which clearly lack scientific merit,” Bright said, and added:

“While I am prepared to look at all options and to think ‘outside the box’ for effective treatments, I rightly resisted efforts to provide an unproven drug on demand to the American public”.

Asked about Bright, Trump said: “I never heard of him. If a guy says he was pushed out of a job, maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t. You’d have to hear the other side. I don’t know who he is”.

This week, a US study performed at coronavirus patients at Veterans Health Administration medical centers across the country, found that hydroxychloroquine had no benefit, and was linked to higher rates of death for patients hospitalized with the virus.

Bright announced he would request that the health department inspector general investigate the way in which the Trump administration has “politicised the work of Barda”.