Two PR Employees at FDA Fired After Plasma Therapy Controversy

Damian McNamara

August 28, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has removed two senior public relations employees, one of whom advised the agency against unbridled promotion of convalescent blood plasma as a treatment for people with COVID-19, multiple media outlets reported today.

Officials claim the dismissals are coincidental and are not related to a controversy about whether claims regarding convalescent plasma therapy that were put forth by President Donald Trump and FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, MD, were exaggerated, according to reports from The New York Times , CNN, and elsewhere.

One of the PR employees, Emily Miller, was on the job less than 2 weeks. The White House named her FDA chief spokeswoman 11 days ago, but Hahn removed her from that post today.

Yesterday, the US Department of Health and Human Services terminated the contract for Wayne L. Pines, a PR consultant to the FDA. Pines reportedly advised Hahn to apologize for making misleading claims about the therapeutic benefits of convalescent plasma therapy for COVID-19.

The FDA did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Dr Stephen Hahn

The controversy stems from comments Hahn made about the announcement of the emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma for patients with COVID-19. He said that plasma had been found to save the lives of 35 out of every 100 people who were treated. That statement was later found to be erroneous because he presented a relative risk reduction as an absolute decrease in risk. He later apologized via Twitter.

Researchers running clinical trials to evaluate the efficacy of convalescent plasma for COVID-19 are concerned that the emergency use authorization could thwart efforts to recruit participants for their studies.

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