A top Health and Human Services official who said he was shoved out of a key coronavirus response job for pushing back against “efforts to fund potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections” submitted his resignation Tuesday, his lawyers said.
The official, Dr. Rick Bright, “can no longer countenance working for an administration that puts politics over science to the great detriment of the American people,” lawyers Debra Katz and Lisa Banks said in a statement.
Bright filed a whistleblower complaint in May charging “an abuse of authority or gross mismanagement” at the Department of Health and Human Services. He said his resistance to political pressure led to his being removed from his post as deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response and director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA.
The 89-page whistleblower complaint says Bright was transferred from BARDA “without warning or explanation” over his refusal to embrace hydroxychloroquine — the anti-malarial drug promoted by President Donald Trump as a potential coronavirus remedy.
He was transferred to the National Institutes of Health, where he said he has been sidelined. An amended whistleblower complaint said he had been assigned no meaningful work since Sept. 4, after he completed his previous assignment. “He has been idle for weeks,” said the amended complaint, also sent Tuesday.
“Dr. Bright was forced to leave his position at NIH because he can no longer sit idly by and work for an administration that ignores scientific expertise, overrules public health guidance and disrespects career scientists, resulting in the sickness and death of hundreds of thousands of Americans,” the lawyers said.
They also said he had devised a plan for “a robust national testing infrastructure,” which leaders ignored “because of political consideration, plain and simple.”
“After having his work suppressed for political reasons to the detriment of public health and safety, Dr. Bright was sidelined from doing any further work to combat this deadly virus. This was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back,” the attorneys said.
After Bright went public with his May complaint, an HHS representative said he was transferred because his help was needed at NIH.
During his time at BARDA, Bright fast-tracked one of the treatments Trump has received for Covid-19, Regeneron’s antibody cocktail. It was the first contract he put in place as BARDA’s director to respond to the coronavirus.