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.

Go deeper

Aug 8, 2020 - Health

Poll: 1 in 3 Americans would decline COVID-19 vaccine

A trial COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: Silvio Avila/AFP via Getty Images

35% of Americans say they would refuse a coronavirus vaccine, even if it was free, approved by the Food and Drug Administration and available immediately, according to a Gallup poll released Friday.

The big picture: Health experts believe a vaccine — coupled with recommended public health measures — will be the path back to societal normalcy. But that outcome relies on a critical mass getting the vaccine so that the population can achieve herd immunity.

Updated 23 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Republicans and Democrats react to Trump's coronavirus aid action

President Trump speaks to workers at a manufacturing facility in Clyde, Ohio, on Thursday. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Some Republicans joined Democrats in criticizing President Trump Saturday night for taking executive action on coronavirus aid, with Democratic leaders demanding the GOP return to negotiations after stimulus package talks broke down a day earlier.

Why it matters: Trump could face legal challenges on his ability to act without congressional approval, where the constitutional power lies on federal spending. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) was the most vocal Republican critic, saying in a statement: "The pen-and-phone theory of executive lawmaking is unconstitutional slop."

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

Australian officials in Victoria announced another 19 deaths from COVID-19 on Monday morning local time, breaking the state and national record set the previous day of 17. Victoria also reported 322 new cases — the lowest in 13 days.

The big picture: Australia was on track to suppress the virus in May, but cases have been spiking in Victoria in recent weeks, where a state of disaster was declared last week, enabling officials to introduce restrictions including a night-time curfew in state capital Melbourne.