Watchdog Group Demands Answers on COVID-19 Treatment Funding Reversal; Trump Administration Has Record of Pressuring Key Federal Agency
NYT: “The decision…blindsided academic researchers and executives at small biotech companies…”
READ: Freedom of Information Act request
Washington, DC – Today, Patients Over Pharma filed a Freedom of Information Act request with Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) following reporting that BARDA quietly and abruptly cut off funding for research into treatments for the most severe forms of COVID-19 that attack the lungs. This surprising move by BARDA comes as Trump is dialing up pressure for a vaccine to be ready in time to help his reelection, which public health experts worry could lead to rushed and unsafe development and politicized prioritization of federal funding.
“People deserve a clear and honest explanation regarding BARDA’s deeply concerning decision to abruptly cut off research funding of treatments for the hardest-hit COVID-19 patients,” said Eli Zupnick, spokesman for Patients Over Pharma.
“We know BARDA was pressured to ‘drop everything’ to focus on Trump’s pet projects and to direct funding to politically-connected drug companies, which is why it’s important that BARDA clarify whether they ended their support for lung treatment research on the advice of scientists and public health experts or due to pressure from Trump. And if BARDA needs additional resources to ensure that COVID-19 priorities get the funding they need to help get our country out of this crisis, they should let Congress know immediately and not simply deprioritize critical treatments.”
The New York Times reported this week that BARDA has allocated $2.2 billion to vaccine development contracts compared to $359 million for treatment.
According to a whistleblower complaint, the General Counsel of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Bob Charrow, passed down an “urgent directive” from the White House to BARDA “to drop everything” to make donated hydroxychloroquine available to the public via an Investigational New Drug status that would have been even more permissive than emergency use authorization. The whistleblower, Dr. Bright, “opposed the broad use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as lacking scientific merit, even though the Administration promoted it as a panacea.”
The FDA subsequently ended the emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine as treatment for coronavirus, saying the drugs “are unlikely to produce an antiviral effect.” According to reporting, “recent randomized controlled trials have found the drugs do not benefit coronavirus patients, and doctors have reported that hydroxychloroquine can cause heart problems.