Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar pushed back Wednesday against claims that President Trump pressured the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to authorize the use of convalescent plasma to treat coronavirus patients, but he did credit Trump for removing "unnecessary bureaucratic red tape that stands in the way of saving lives."
Azar was asked on the "Fox News Rundown" whether Trump pressured health officials to approve the treatment before the election — a theory promoted by some media outlets after the president announced an emergency authorization for its use Sunday.
"We're in an unprecedented pandemic, and President Trump is going to ensure that we get rid of any unnecessary bureaucratic red tape that stands in the way of saving lives," Azar said.
But, he continued, "this convalescent plasma data that came in over the course of the last week was being analyzed by [the National Institutes of Health] and the FDA and actually, as of Friday, [we] were preparing rollout materials for an authorization on Sunday. So that was already well underway."
The announcement authorizing the use of convalescent plasma came a day after Trump accused the “deep state” of making it hard for drug companies to test coronavirus treatments — and suggested the agency is acting on political motivations and trying to delay them until after Election Day.
Asked directly whether there was truth to Trump's claim, Azar responded: "No."
"But," he added, "what the president is insisting on, what I insist on, is that we move as quickly as we can to meet the FDA safety, efficacy and regulatory standards, whether it's therapeutics or vaccines.
"And that's really what's behind Operation Warp Speed, is 'How can we reduce any inefficiency, get rid of any unnecessary bureaucratic red tape to move with speed because people's lives are at risk here?'
"This is a global, unprecedented pandemic," he concluded, "and we have got to move as quickly as possible. Our normal timelines just can't hold. We've got to move fast."
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