Dr. Rick Bright is the former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Developmental Authority (BARDA), under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the agency’s former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. With the HHS, he was heading the search for and production of treatments and vaccines for COVID-19. Before the HHS, Bright spent several years in the vaccine and therapeutics development at the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC).
In April 2020, Bright was transferred to the National Institutes of Health (NHS) with new tasks. In May, Bright filed a complaint claiming that his transfer to the NHS was retaliation against him. The complaint stated that he was fired because he opposed President Trump’s promotion of hydroxychloroquine and other drugs, vaccines, and technologies which were short of scientific merit.
Trump and his administration were actively promoting hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat COVID-19. Bright’s apprehensions were that these drugs have not been proven to effectively treat the virus, and that they are manufactured in factories in Pakistan and India which have not been inspected and approved by the FDA. Bright claimed that the officials ignored his warnings and misinformed the public.
At the same time, Bright pointed out “cronyism” and felt that he was compelled to redirect the financing to Trump’s preferred drug. Bright argued that the money allocated by Congress be invested into solutions that have medical and scientific proof.
Last week, the Office of Special Counsel, a federal agency which protects whistleblowers, reported that there are “reasonable grounds” for an investigation and that Bright’s firing was a retaliation for his stand on the COVID-19 treatment pushed by the Trump administration. The agency is recommending that Bright be given back his position at BARDA while they continue to investigate. HHS Secretary Alex Lazar will have to make that decision.
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