Welcome to the FiercePharma political roundup, where each Monday we’ll highlight developments in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere that could affect drug pricing and how drugmakers operate.
As per usual, top officials appeared on Sunday news programs with their pandemic updates, and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci was his usual honest self.
By the evening, President Donald Trump had retweeted a call to fire him. And by Monday, the episode was a hot topic on social media.
Fauci, who has become a household name amid the COVID-19 pandemic, said on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday that earlier action in the U.S. “could have saved lives.” But there was “a lot of pushback” about social distancing strategies early on, he cautioned.
"What goes into those decisions is complicated," Fauci told CNN's Jake Tapper.
“But you're right, I mean, obviously, if we had right from the very beginning shut everything down, it may have been a little bit different,” he said on the show. “But there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down back then."
Later in the day, Trump retweeted a message calling for Fauci’s firing. The original tweet came from DeAnna Lorraine, a Republican candidate for Congress in California, and the president added his own message.
“Sorry Fake News, it’s all on tape,” he wrote. “I banned China long before people spoke up.”
Monday, the topic trended on Twitter, as did "#SaveFauci." As The New York Times points out, Fauci had a 78% nationwide approval rating earlier this month, compared with 46% for Trump, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.
The episode came as the U.S. outbreak nears its peak, according to FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn. Appearing on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday, Hahn told Martha Raddatz the U.S. is "very close to the peak” of its outbreak. On testing, Hahn said “we need to do more,” but said the agency is still requiring high-quality tests even amid the urgency of the pandemic.
“It’s really important to remember that these tests have to be valid and accurate and reliable,” he said. Meanwhile, some experts questioned the FDA's flexibility on blood-antibody tests that could determine whether people have been unknowingly infected—and potentially pave the way for reopening the economy—provided they're accurate.
As of Monday morning, there were more than 555,000 cases in the U.S. and 22,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The weekend's events followed other disagreements within the Trump administration during its pandemic response, including over the president’s promotion of hydroxychloroquine.
In response to Trump's statements last month, Fauci said data remained “anecdotal.” Officials in the administration have also disagreed over timelines to reopen the country, according to reports.
On ABC's show, Hahn said he doesn't know whether the U.S. will be able to reopen May 1, but he said that's one "target." The U.S. needs to take a "data-driven approach" one day at a time, he added.