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President Trump watches FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn address the media, Aug. 23. Photo: Pete Marovich/Getty Images

A big story that slipped under the radar during last night's RNC: The FDA commissioner apologized for overselling the benefits of convalescent plasma for treating the coronavirus.

Why it matters: The FDA is supposed to be a Switzerland of neutrality within government, able to act based on science instead of pressure from politicians and big business.

  • "I have been criticized for remarks I made Sunday night about the benefits of convalescent plasma. The criticism is entirely justified," said FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn.

The big picture: The Trump administration has publicly pressured the FDA on granting an emergency use authorization for plasma.

  • President Trump and trade adviser Peter Navarro have privately and publicly criticized the FDA for holding up authorization, accusing staffers of being part of the "deep state."
  • Trump said plasma "has proven to reduce mortality by 35%" in a Sunday press conference.
  • Hahn echoed Trump's comments, which he apologized for last night, saying what he "should have said better is that the data show a relative risk reduction not an absolute risk reduction."

Between the lines: Public health leaders made a public outcry against quick approval of the treatment.

  • That includes top NIH scientists Francis Collins, Anthony Fauci and H. Clifford Lane.
  • “The three of us are pretty aligned on the importance of robust data through randomized control trials, and that a pandemic does not change that,” Lane told the New York Times.
  • Hahn said yesterday that the final decision "was made by FDA career scientists based on data submitted a few weeks ago."

The bottom line: Hahn's predecessor Scott Gottlieb tweeted: "I am confident in the science part of the evaluation executed by CBER. The way the public part was handled will erode precious public confidence. You earn public confidence in small drops and you loose [sic] it in buckets."

Go deeper

WH coronavirus task force: States must "flatten the curve" to sustain health system

A walk-up Covid-19 testing site in San Fernando, California, on Nov. 24, ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

The White House coronavirus task force warned states "the COVID risk to all Americans is at a historic high" and to brace for another surge following Thanksgiving, per a report that emerged Wednesday.

Driving the news: "If you are under 40, you need to assume you became infected during the Thanksgiving period if you gathered beyond your immediate household," said the report, dated Nov. 29, first published by the Center for Public Integrity.

Dec 3, 2020 - World

Azar's UN remarks to take aim at China

Alex Azar during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing. Photo credit: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is expected to give a speech at a special session of the UN General Assembly on Thursday that hails U.S. progress on coronavirus vaccines while criticizing — though not directly naming — China.

Why it matters: U.S. government officials are concerned that China will use the UN special session to spread disinformation about the origins of the virus and China's early missteps in handling the pandemic.

Bipartisan group of lawmakers unveils $908 billion COVID stimulus proposal

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) in the Capitol in 2018. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Tuesday proposed a $908 billion coronavirus stimulus package, in one of the few concrete steps toward COVID relief made by Congress in several months.

Why it matters: Recent data shows that the economic recovery is floundering as coronavirus cases surge and hospitals threaten to be overwhelmed heading into what is likely to be a grim winter.