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Rumor has it that Trump wants to fire FDA Chief Stephen Hahn

 

On Sunday, August 23, the U.S. Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Dr. Stephen Hahn found himself standing at a White House podium next to President Trump.  The topic at hand was the announcement of an emergency approval for a controversial convalescent plasma therapy as a new treatment for COVID-19.  Even though Dr. Hahn had previously been opposed to the therapy’s legal use in the United States, the FDA Chief expressed his support for Mr. Trump’s decision.

Hahn stated that the “truly historic” plasma therapy had a success rate of 35 percent. “What that means is, and if the data continues to pan out, 100 people who are sick with Covid-19, 35 would have been saved because of the administration of plasma,” Hahn said.

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Hahn and the FDA then made everything official by issuing an emergency use authorization for the provocative, new COVID-19 antibodies treatment even though no other country on earth had issued similar actions.  In fact, most reputable scientists were still debating the safety and effectivity of the therapy.  Some were even concerned that it might be lethal when used inappropriately.  And to make matters even worse, the results of a recent Mayo Clinic study appeared to completely contradict Hahn’s position.

President Trump, FDA Chief Hahn, and an October 2019 tweet storm

The reversal in Hahn’s public stance immediately drew scrutiny both in the mainstream press and on social media.  Suspicions grew by the hour that the FDA was only approving the therapy to appease the president.  Only the day before, President Trump had issued a suspicious tweet that called out Dr. Hahn specifically while seemingly implying that the FDA had better approve the plasma therapy…or else. 

On August 22, Mr. Trump tweeted, “The deep state, or whoever, over at the FDA is making it very difficult for drug companies to get people in order to test the vaccines and therapeutics. Obviously, they are hoping to delay the answer until after November 3rd. Must focus on speed, and saving lives! @SteveFDA.”

By Monday night, the public pressure on Hahn to explain his sudden change of heart was growing stronger and more urgent.  Epidemiologists around the world were questioning his ethics while criticizing him for releasing misleading scientific claims.  In a feeble attempt to stop the proverbial backlash, Hahn issued a late-night tweet.  “I have been criticized for remarks I made Sunday night about the benefits of convalescent plasma,” he began. “The criticism is entirely justified. What I should have said better is that the data show a relative risk reduction not an absolute risk reduction.”

By the following morning, the FDA Commissioner was appearing on CBS This Morning and insisting that his decision to approve the therapy was in no way politically motivated.  Hahn indeed was standing by Mr. Trump.  “The professionals and the scientists at FDA independently made this decision, and I completely support them,” he said.

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While Hahn may have appeared to save both his job and his professional reputation for the time being, he soon fell under public pressure yet again when President Trump began repeatedly claiming that a coronavirus vaccine would be readily available by election day 2020.  For this to become truth, the FDA would have to bend the rules and expedite any coronavirus vaccine approvals which could again be viewed as another political move.  A non-tested coronavirus vaccine distributed to over 300 million Americans could also threaten countless numbers of lives. 

By mid-October, Dr. Hahn was publicly refusing to loosen the regulatory approval protocols on coronavirus vaccines.  Meanwhile, at least two Big Pharma companies were already reporting that their stage three clinical trials were being temporarily halted due to an unknown ailment appearing as a side effect in some of the trial participants.  At this point, Politico began publishing rumors that the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar was secretly plotting behind the scenes to fire the FDA’s Hahn.

Over the past 12-months, the FDA has played a significant role regarding the future of vaping, especially in regard to false assertions manufactured and disseminated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claiming that vaping causes a mysterious lung disorder named EVALI.  FDA officials largely came to the vaping community’s defense, albeit it not very vocally or aggressively.  Hahn also helped convince President Trump against installing a nationwide vape ban in December of 2019 – even though his boss, Secretary Azar, was strongly in favor of such a ban.  

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