Pelosi: ‘Shame on’ FDA commissioner for overstating benefits of plasma treatment for COVID-19

Bonnie Cash

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday blasted Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn for initially overstating the benefits, during an announcement with President Trump on the eve of the GOP convention, of treating COVID-19 patients with convalescent plasma. 

Hahn ultimately backtracked on Monday after coming under fire from experts who criticized him for misrepresenting findings of a study on the use of convalescent plasma. 

“Shame on Hahn for what he did. And he even had to backtrack on what he said, because it was not science-based. He was just there as a prop for the president to pretend that something was happening,” Pelosi said during an interview on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports.” 

“Let’s hope that this incident with Hahn having to backtrack on his foolish statements will be a warning for them that people are watching,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi further expressed concern that the Trump administration might try to rush a COVID-19 vaccine without adequate scientific trials. 

“Clearly they’ve already indicated that they will overstate the safety and efficacy of a drug. But it’s really sad, because science, science, science, for so many reasons, is the answer to so much,” Pelosi said.

“We’re all praying that we have a vaccine as soon as we can have it. But not any sooner than it is safe and efficacious in terms of immunizing the American people and people throughout the world,” she continued.

Hahn said during a press conference on Sunday announcing an emergency authorization of convalescent plasma for COVID-19 patients that a study showed it resulted in a 35 percent improvement in survival.

Data from the Mayo Clinic found evidence that patients who received higher doses of plasma fared better than with lower doses. But the lack of an untreated control group for comparison meant there wasn’t enough evidence to conclude it was better than a placebo.

Hahn said in a series of tweets on Monday night that the criticism of his remarks on Sunday about the benefits of convalescent plasma was “entirely justified.” 

“What I should have said better is that the data show a relative risk reduction not an absolute risk reduction,” Hahn tweeted.

The Sunday announcement came a day after Trump accused the “deep state” at the FDA of slowing the development of COVID-19 therapeutics and vaccines. 

“Obviously, they are hoping to delay the answer until after November 3rd. Must focus on speed, and saving lives!” Trump tweeted.

Hahn denied that the decision to grant emergency authorization for convalescent plasma was motivated by politics.

“We at FDA do not permit politics to enter into our scientific decisions. This happens to be a political season but FDA will remain data driven. On behalf of FDA’s 18,000 career employees, I want to reassure the American public about this commitment,” Hahn said on Monday.

The FDA previously issued an emergency authorization for hydroxychloroquine, a drug used to treat malaria that Trump repeatedly touted for COVID-19. But it ultimately revoked the authorization in June in light of what it described as “serious side effects.” 

Tags Donald Trump Nancy Pelosi

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