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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However, internal errors reportedly caused by the use of outdated COVID-19 statistics resulted in thousands of the doses going to “less impacted counties" while others were unable to obtain any.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 MarkeySenate Republicans offer constitutional amendment to block Supreme Court packing Time to honor the 'ghosts' of WWII OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Federal officials press concerns about proposed mine near Georgia swamp, documents show | Trump falsely claims Green New Deal calls for 'tiny little windows' | Interior appeals migratory bird ruling MORE and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOvernight Health Care: Trump takes criticism of Fauci to a new level | GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci | Birx confronted Pence about Atlas Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Government watchdog to investigate allegations of Trump interference at CDC, FDA MORE and Rep. Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyPerdue's rival raises nearly M after senator mispronounces Kamala Harris's name Ocasio-Cortez, progressives call on Senate not to confirm lobbyists or executives to future administration posts Pocan won't seek another term as Progressive Caucus co-chair 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 DingellCedric Richmond's next move: 'Sky's the limit' if Biden wins Pelosi, Mnuchin continue COVID-19 talks amid dwindling odds for deal Pocan won't seek another term as Progressive Caucus co-chair MORE (D) and Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonWarren, Porter to headline progressive fundraiser supporting seven swing state candidates Preventing next pandemic requires new bill's global solutions Hillicon Valley: Judge's ruling creates fresh hurdle for TikTok | House passes bills to secure energy sector against cyberattacks | Biden campaign urges Facebook to remove Trump posts spreading 'falsehoods' 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.