Congress Must Increase Oversight of Biomedical Agency Following Bright Testimony

Statement of Peter Maybarduk, Director, Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines Program

Note: Dr. Rick Bright, recently deposed head of the federal Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) turned whistleblower, called today for greater congressional oversight of the agency, which until recently he ran. In testimony before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, Bright urged Congress “to continue and increase” its oversight of the billions appropriated to agencies like BARDA to develop medical tools such as vaccines, saying he is concerned that funds “could be misdirected and lost and not put to the right fight.” 

Bright’s shocking testimony shows that the Trump administration’s appalling insistence on pseudoscience and cronyism, especially during a pandemic, threatens the health of hundreds of millions of people.

BARDA is giving billions in taxpayer dollars to drug corporations to develop vaccines, and this requires greater transparency. The public must be able to review these immensely lucrative contracts to ensure BARDA protects the public interest. This means requiring technology transfer and cooperation with global health agencies to bring vaccine manufacturing capacity to the mountainous scale humanity will need. If the U.S. government gets this wrong, billions of people may wait years longer for a vaccine.

BARDA should publish its contracts immediately, or Congress should require it to do so.