The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has fired two senior public relations employees over the convalescent blood plasma therapy controversy.
One of the two employees advised the FDA against unbridled promotion of blood plasma therapy for the treatment of COVID-19, the infection caused by the novel coronavirus.
Health authorities have claimed the dismissals are coincidental and are not related to the controversy about whether claims regarding convalescent plasma therapy that were put forth by President Donald Trump and FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, were exaggerated.
Emily Miller, one of the PR employees, was on the job less than 2 weeks. She was appointed as the FDA’s chief spokeswoman 11 days ago by the White House. However, Dr. Hahn removed her from that post yesterday.
On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) terminated the contract for Wayne Pines, a PR consultant to the FDA.
According to reports, Pines advised Dr. Hahn to apologize for making misleading claims about the therapeutic benefits of convalescent blood plasma therapy for COVID-19.
The controversy has stemmed from comments Dr. Hahn made by announcing the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for convalescent plasma for patients with COVID-19.
He said that plasma therapy had been found to effective in at least 35 out of every 100 people who underwent treatment.
Many officials criticized the move due to a lack of scientific evidence. Dr. Hahn’s statement was later found to be erroneous because he presented a relative risk reduction as an absolute decrease in risk. The FDA commissioner later apologized through Twitter.
Scientists, who are still running clinical trials to evaluate the safety and efficacy of plasma therapy for COVID-19, are concerned that the EUA could thwart efforts to recruit participants for their trials. Globally, the virus has affected more than 24 million people and killed over 841,000 so far. In the United States, the virus has sickened over 6 million and killed more than 185,000.