According to a report from Politico, Donald Trump is angering officials in Health and Human Services department for pulling them off important research aimed at developing a vaccine for COVID-19 to study anti-malaria drugs he believes may end the pandemic.
With one official calling Trump's demands a "wild goose chase," officials are running to the press to complain that they are being yanked out of meetings to do the president's bidding.
"President Donald Trump’s all-out push to advance unproven coronavirus treatments is deepening a divide between the White House and career health officials, who are being pulled away from other potential projects to address the president’s hunch that decades-old malaria medicines can be coronavirus cures," the report states. "The White House directed health officials to set up a project to track if the antimalarial drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine show promise — a dayslong effort that distracted from urgent tasks like trials of other medicines thought to have more potential against the virus."
Pointing out "The White House is also pressuring Medicare officials to pay for unproven treatments being given to desperate patients during a pandemic," Politico reports one official said the president is making their life even more difficult as they try to quickly stem the pandemic.
“Everyone is getting ahead of their skis here,” explained the HHS official. “All this buzz is confusing the American public, it's confusing doctors. There’s a ton of people involved in front-line response in the government … who are getting pulled into meetings to discuss this when the data doesn’t support it.”
Another official seconded the comments, saying, "mindshare, time and energy being soaked up by a potential wild-goose chase,” before adding, “We have no idea if this works, and the evidence suggests it doesn’t.”
At issue is a demand from the White House to "to track if the antimalarial drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine show promise — a dayslong effort that distracted from urgent tasks like trials of other medicines thought to have more potential against the virus," the report notes.
According to Politico, "The White House has pulled multiple health agencies — including the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services — into a project to develop a database tracking the drugs’ use against the coronavirus, despite scant evidence that they are effective."
One official specifically cited a White House request to see "how to reimburse doctors for prescribing chloroquine to patients searching for a coronavirus treatment," criticizing the plan by stating, "They’re basically creating a perverse incentive for physicians to use an unapproved therapy.”
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