Lawmakers press HHS for answers on coronavirus drug distribution

Lawmakers press HHS for answers on coronavirus drug distribution
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Lawmakers are asking the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to explain how it is handling remdesivir, a drug shown to be a potential treatment for COVID-19, after Axios reported that mass confusion within the administration hampered its distribution.

Gilead Sciences, the company that produces remdesivir, donated 1.5 million doses of the drug to the federal government after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fast-tracked its authorization as an emergency treatment for areas where hospitals are experiencing large coronavirus patient counts.  

However, internal errors reportedly caused by the use of outdated COVID-19 statistics resulted in thousands of the doses going to “less impacted counties" while others were unable to obtain any. 

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HHS Secretary Alex Azar has sought to distance himself from the mistake, according to Axios, even though one of his top officials, Robert Kadlec, the HHS assistant secretary for Preparedness and Response, was directly involved with distribution. 

Massachusetts Democrats Sens. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyGOP senators debate replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a federal holiday The Hill's Campaign Report: Jacksonville mandates face coverings as GOP convention approaches Steyer endorses Markey in Massachusetts Senate primary MORE and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic Unity Taskforce unveils party platform recommendations Progressive activist Ady Barkan endorses Biden, urges him to pick Warren as VP Congress must act now to fix a Social Security COVID-19 glitch and expand, not cut, benefits MORE and Rep. Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyThe Hill's Campaign Report: Colorado, Utah primary results bring upsets, intrigue Progressives zero in on another House chairman in primary Ocasio-Cortez pitches interns to work for her instead of McConnell MORE wrote a letter to Vice President Pence, who is overseeing the administration's coronavirus response, and Azar, claiming some hospitals in their state were potentially affected by the mishap.

They said two Massachusetts hospitals are slated to receive the drug despite having fewer than 100 COVID-19 cases, while two others, each with more than 230 cases, will not be getting it.

“Congress and the public need to know whether HHS is making its distribution decisions in backroom deals or is relying on data and evidence to ensure that potentially life-saving drugs reach the patients who need them,” the lawmakers wrote. 

Michigan Reps. Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann DingellDingell pushes provision to curtail drunk driving in House infrastructure package 18 states fight conservative think tank effort to freeze fuel efficiency standards Pelosi: George Floyd death is 'a crime' MORE (D) and Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Teachers' union President Randi Weingarten calls Trump administration plan to reopen schools 'a train wreck'; US surpasses 3 million COVID-19 cases Karen Bass's star rises after leading police reform push The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - States are pausing reopening MORE (R) sent a similar letter to HHS, noting a hospital with more than 500 COVID-19 patients in their state was denied doses of the drug. 

“Transparency in the federal government’s role in allocation of remdesivir, and guidance on how remdesivir should be allocated, will provide certainty to providers and facilitate a stronger and more cohesive response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Kadlec.