The Food and Drug Administration’s new spokeswoman, Emily Miller, has been fired, according to the New York Times. The Times reported that FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn “notified senior leadership at the F.D.A. on Friday that Ms. Miller would no longer be the official spokeswoman for the agency.”
The reports of Miller’s firing came after Miller defended Hahn’s initial statement that the use of blood plasma reduced the deaths of 35% of patients, according to Politico; Hahn later corrected himself.
Miller’s Background Drew Criticism From Some Before She Even Started the Job
— Emily Miller (@emilymiller) August 28, 2020
According to her FDA biography, Miller worked as a senior editor for the Washington Times, and as a guest host/analyst on all of the major cable TV networks, including Fox News, CNN, HBO and MSNBC. She also worked as a political correspondent for One America News, a cable TV channel with controversial programming. Miller had political experience, working as a communication strategist with Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice and as a spokeswoman for Senator Ted Cruz during his re-election campaign.
The announcement of her appointment received heavy criticism from those who pointed out that her background was not in health, but primarily gun advocacy. Others noted that the tone of the FDA, which has historically been a nonpartisan agency, seemed to change with her at the helm of communications.
This is not a normal headline for a press release from the FDA and I have been getting FDA releases since the ReaganAdmin… https://t.co/BKbO2uCQkX
— julie rovner (@jrovner) August 23, 2020
While she worked at OANN, a very conservative channel and a competitor to Fox News, Miller had appeared friendly with President Trump, posting on LinkedIn that he had thanked her and praising him on Twitter.
Miller’s lack of expertise in the healthcare field also came into question when she tweeted on July 5, “There is zero scientific study to show there is long term health problems for covid patients. It’s way too soon in the pandemic for doctors to know if the recovery is not full. (And I don’t think it’s civil to accuse someone who disagrees to not be smart.)” By that point, other journals, reported by Gavi, Vox, Miami Health News and other sources, had produced studies showing lung scarring and other long-term effects of the disease.
Miller also accused reporters of being “completely out of touch” for asking the president about his use of the term “Kung Flu,” and she said in her tweet, “Not one person in the real world cares what the heck this virus is called unofficially,” despite many calling the term an unnecessary, racist characterization of the disease and former Trump spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway calling the term “highly offensive” before President Trump began using it publicly.
The first questions were good, then it went off the rails and reporters showed how completely out of touch they are with Americans. Not one person in the real world cares what the heck this virus is called unofficially. They care about jobs, health, family, friends.
— Emily Miller (@emilymiller) March 18, 2020
Miller also defended Vice President Mike Pence when he appeared at the Mayo Clinic without a mask, despite CDC recommendations that a mask be worn at that time (Pence’s visit was on April 28 and the CDC changed its guidelines on April 3, as Live Science reported).
“The purpose of a mask is to prevent asymptomatic people who are positive for #COVID19 from inadvertently spreading the virus. Since @VP recently said he was tested and is negative, why is this Mayo Clinic visit so controversial?” Miller tweeted. At that time, it was known that tests were not 100% reliable and those infected could be asymptomatic.
Miller has also not taken down a tweet repeating Hahn’s original statement that 35% of COVID-19 patients were cured with blood plasma; instead, she wrote a “clarification” beneath it that others have also deemed to be incorrect:
To clarify, the @MayoClinic data compared those given convalescent plasma with a high level of antibodies from COVID to those given plasma with low levels.
So 35% more patients survived by getting the higher antibodies convalescent plasma.
— FDA Spokesperson (@FDASpox) August 24, 2020
Dr. Rob Davidson, an emergency physician and member of the Committee to Protect Medicare, blasted Miller’s “clarification” on Twitter, writing:
Actually it’s a reduction in mortality from 11.9% to 8.7% if given in first 3 days versus after 4 days. No idea where you’re getting the statement that it’s beneficial for 35% of patients. I know you’re new, but the accuracy of your tweets matter.
Further, this wasn’t a study per se, it was analysis of “expanded access” patient data. No control arm. No placebo. And now with the EUA you will limit the numbers who will enroll in RCTs that could prove efficacy.
And the high titer vs low titer wasn’t controlled for other treatments. Was across sites. Not supported by Fauci or Collins.
In reporting on the study, the Arizona Central wrote that “In patients who received plasma within three days after diagnosis, the mortality rate after 7 days was 8.7% and after 30 days, it was 26.1%. By comparison, the group that received plasma later had a 7-day mortality rate of 11.9% and a 30-day mortality rate of 26.7%.”
The paper also added that, “Because it’s an observational study and not a clinical trial, the results can’t be used to prove the treatment works” despite claims from the study’s lead researcher that it could reduce mortality upwards of 55%.
Miller & Another Consultant Were Fired Following Hahn’s Controversial Claims About Blood Plasma
Responding to an outcry from medical experts, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn on Tuesday apologized for overstating the life-saving benefits of treating COVID-19 patients with convalescent plasma. https://t.co/aniNIyRhXt
— Jonathan Landay (@JonathanLanday) August 25, 2020
Waynes L. Pines, a consultant under the Department of Health and Human Services, told Hahn that his claims about plasma’s health benefits might be overstated, according to the Times. The paper reported that he was also fired Friday. When the Times spoke to Waynes, he told them that he did not know why he was terminated, but he did find Hahn’s correction “refreshing.”
“I did recommend that he correct the record,” Waynes said. “If a federal official doesn’t say something right, and chooses to clarify and say that the criticism is justified, that’s refreshing.”
Hahn had originally said 35 out of 100 people would survive coronavirus if they were treated with plasma during a press conference with Trump, the Associated Press reported. However, the AP reported that Hahn had gotten the number through a misinterpretation of results from the Mayo Clinic; he had mistaken a relative difference between the treatment groups for absolute survival benefit.
The absolute survival benefit was much lower in actuality.
After Waynes intervened, according to the Times, Hahn then issued a correction via Twitter, writing, “I have been criticized for remarks I made Sunday night about the benefits of convalescent plasma. That criticism is entirely justified.”
I have been criticized for remarks I made Sunday night about the benefits of convalescent plasma. The criticism is entirely justified. What I should have said better is that the data show a relative risk reduction not an absolute risk reduction.
— Dr. Stephen M. Hahn (@SteveFDA) August 25, 2020