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House COVID-19 panel seeks interview with former Trump FDA leader Hahn

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The House subcommittee investigating the U.S. response to the coronavirus wants to question Stephen Hahn, former President Trump’s Food and Drug Administration commissioner, about attempts to improperly interfere with the agency’s review of COVID-19 therapeutics and vaccines. 

The committee on Monday sent a letter to Hahn asking him to sit for an interview on Dec. 16, and to provide documents and communications by Dec. 6. 

Hahn, an oncologist who had no previous experience running a government agency, had taken the helm at FDA in early 2020, just weeks before the first COVID-19 cases were identified in the U.S. 

The FDA faced an onslaught from political appointees across the government to fast-track approvals of therapeutics and vaccines that would show the Trump administration had the pandemic under control, including hydroxychloroquine and convalescent plasma.

The agency granted emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine in late March of 2020, after Trump embraced it and routinely touted it as a “game changer,” despite evidence of its limited effectiveness. 

Previously released documents and emails from FDA showed that Hahn and other agency officials expressed concerns that hydroxychloroquine was ineffective and potentially dangerous, but the agency did not formally revoke the authorization until June.

Still, Trump White House officials continued to advocate for the widespread use of hydroxychloroquine and sought to pressure the agency to reverse its decision.

In another widely reported example, the FDA rushed to issue an emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma on August 23, 2020, after Trump pressured the agency to move faster in pushing out coronavirus treatments and vaccines.

Hahn apologized after using a misleading statistic to show that plasma was far more effective than it actually was. Emails obtained by the committee showed the agency’s top spokeswoman at the time, Emily Miller, encouraged Hahn to “[m]essage positive always.”

Hahn fired Miller shortly after the fiasco.  

“Given the sustained campaigns to promote the use of dubious coronavirus treatments, the Select Subcommittee seeks to understand the full extent and impact of Trump Administration officials’ efforts to influence these FDA decisions,” the panel’s chairman Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) wrote.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 response Donald Trump FDA Stephen Hahn

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