May 7, 2020 - Health

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

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

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

More than 100,000 Americans have died of the coronavirus, according to data from Johns Hopkins — a milestone that puts the death toll far beyond some of the most tragic events in U.S. history.

By the numbers: Over 1.6 million have tested positive in the U.S. Nearly 354,000 Americans have recovered and over 15.1 million tests have been conducted. California became the fourth state with at least 100,000 reported cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, along with Illinois, New Jersey and New York.

Go deeper (2 min. read)ArrowUpdated 14 hours ago - Health

Mark Zuckerberg: Social networks should not be "the arbiter of truth"

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg argued on CNBC's "Squawk Box" Thursday that social media platforms should not police political speech, and that "people should be able to see what politicians say.”

Why it matters: Zuckerberg was responding to Twitter's decision this week to fact-check a pair of President Trump's tweets that claimed that mail-in ballots are "substantially fraudulent." Twitter's label, which directs users to "get the facts" about mail-in voting, does not censor Trump's tweets.

House Democrats pull FISA reauthorization bill

Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

House Democrats pulled legislation Thursday that would have renewed expired domestic surveillance laws and strengthened transparency and privacy protections amid broad opposition from President Trump, House GOP leadership and progressive Democrats.

Why it matters: The failure to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) comes as Trump continues to attack the intelligence community, which he claims abused the law to surveil his 2016 campaign and Trump administration officials.