Rick Bright, the former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, tells the New York Times he was forced out of that role because he pushed for strict testing of hydroxychloroquine, a drug President Donald Trump has touted with limited evidence as a COVID-19 treatment.
Stat News reported earlier this week that Bright had departed BARDA and was moving to a role at the National Institutes of Health to work on diagnostics, but that the reason for the change was not clear.
"I believe this transfer was in response to my insistence that the government invest the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the COVID-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines, and other technologies that lack scientific merit," Bright now says in a statement to the Times. "I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus, science — not politics or cronyism — has to lead the way."
As the Times notes, President Trump has pushed the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, as some anecdotal reports suggested they might help some patients. However, it adds that a small trial in Brazil had to be stopped after patients developed irregular heartbeats and that early findings from a small Veterans Affairs cohort found use of the drug didn't alleviate the need for ventilators and was associated with an increased risk of death.