May 7, 2020 - Health

Whistleblower complaint shows HHS wanted to "flood" states with chloroquine

A lone protester holds a sign calling for an end to the lockdown and claiming chloroquine works
Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The whistleblower complaint filed by former Health and Human Services official Rick Bright includes email chains that illuminate the administration's push to use chloroquine — an unproven drug that President Trump has repeatedly touted.

The state of play: In a March 17 email, HHS official Joe Hamel described chloroquine as "not a blockbuster drug for this fight, but a good drug."

  • Chris Houchens, an official in Bright's former office, known as BARDA, warned of "safety liabilities associated with the drug," but also said "the potential benefit outweighs the risk, especially when we have few/no options."

The Food and Drug Administration has only signed off on emergency use of hydroxychloroquine in hospitals, but Assistant Secretary of Health Brett Giroir said on April 5 it "needs to go to pharmacies as well," according to emails included in the complaint.

  • "The drug is approved and therefore can be prescribed as per doctor’s orders. That is a FINAL ANSWER," he wrote, saying that the FDA's emergency authorization "matters not."
  • Giroir and other HHS officials discussed an effort "to flood NY and NJ with treatment courses" of hydroxychloroquine in an email chain on April 4, citing a "WH call."

The other side: HHS declined to respond to any specifics in the complaint.

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