Wednesday, April 22, 2020

BARDA Director Rick Bright Retains Lawyers; PrePrint Disses Chloroquine as COVID Therapy; WSJ & Azar

BARDA In Brief:

BARDA Director Rick Bright, terminated from that position yesterday, has retained lawyers and will ask OIG to investigate the conditions of his termination.

See a story at Endpoints News hereSee NYT here.
  • First, Bright asserts that his resistance to chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine therapies was the cause for his unjust termination.  
  • Second, in a statement vetted by his attorneys, he asserts that "Sidelining me in the middle of this pandemic ...stunts national efforts to safely and effectively address this urgent public health crisis."  
  • Third, he says he will formally ask for an OIG investigation.
His attorneys announced they will "request that the Office of Special Counsel seek a stay of Dr. Bright’s termination."  NYT reports that House E&C committee will investigate (here).

NYT also quotes Administration officials that Bright was "a polarizing figure" within HHS, and other critiques.  A next-day story at CNN by Diamond et al. provides more he-said, she-said quotes (here).    One HHS official said that Bright "slammed things and broke binders" but another provided an HHS job review rating of 480/500 from May 2019.

This week, BARDA netted a new $2B in yesterday's Senate bill for COVID recovery which includes $25B for diagnostics topics (here).

Negative Paper on Hydroxychloroquine Performance

An article in MedCity News focuses on a preprint article in which 368 hospitalized COVID patients had no benefit (but excess deaths) when given hydroxychloroquine.   MedCity here.  Preprint at here, by Magagnoli et al.

The study was retrospective, raising the risk that the Rx treated patients were sicker than non-Rx patients, in ways not captured by propensity adjustment.  However, the adjusted mortality hazard ratio was 2.6 for the Rx group.

Fireworks:  Alex Azar Broadsided in WSJ

WSJ publishes a highly negative story (2600 words) about HHS chief Alex Azar, citing numerous White House sources.  Here.   Similarly at Reuters, here.

Numerous media outlets headlined the news that Azar's pick for pandemic leader, Brian Harrison, was a longtime colleague and experienced Labradoodle breeder.  Sample headlines:

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An April 6 article in Stat Plus (subscription) gave a scorecard for BARDA's performance to date under COVID - here.