A self-proclaimed watchdog group is suing the Biden administration, saying records on the rationing of a key COVID-19 treatment were not provided in a timely manner.
The Functional Government Initiative (FGI) is seeking records that will explain why the administration allegedly cut shipments of monoclonal antibody (mAB) treatments to Florida, among other states in 2021 and 2022.
In its lawsuit, FGI claims the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and two subagencies—the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)—have not complied with legal requirements outlined in the Freedom of Information Act.
“The only way we’re going to be able to obtain these documents is through a lawsuit, and that’s why we are suing HHS, NIH, and NIAID,” said Peter McGinnis, a spokesman for FGI.
Florida was one of the first states to promote mAB treatments, which prevent mild or moderate cases of COVID-19 from becoming more severe, thus leading to fewer hospitalizations, according to The Epoch Times.
In January, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) restricted the use of Eli Lilly and Regeneron mAB treatments, as the department determined they were not effective against the Omicron variant of the Sars-CoV2 virus that causes COVID-19, according to The Hill.
“Because data show these treatments are highly unlikely to be active against the omicron variant, which is circulating at a very high frequency throughout the United States, these treatments are not authorized for use in any U.S. states, territories, and jurisdictions at this time,” the FDA said.
McGinnis feels the rationing decision was “potentially motivated by politics.”
He claimed that members of the Biden administration were at odds with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and believes the documents will either confirm or deny his suspicions.
“Hopefully, it’s not. I would hate to live in a world that we have a pandemic on our hands and the White House is restricting essential medical supplies over, ‘We don’t like this governor in the way that he attacks us, we’re not going to let him have this,’” McGinnis said.
The Florida Governor’s Office released a statement in January asking the federal government to “release its stranglehold” on the treatment and requesting an increase in supply to the state.
Court documents show that FGI submitted its FOIA request in February. HHS acknowledged the request but gave no updates.
FGI claims the department violated the Freedom of Information Act, which says that agencies must process and provide notice of compliance or denial of the request within 20 days.
The suit also states that an NIH employee reached out to FGI to clarify their request but did so after the 20-day requirement. FGI claims the employee explained their questions, but NIH did not provide any additional information or updates.
FGI stated it heard back from NIAID on May 10. The department said it was reviewing the FOIA request and provided an estimate of six months for a response.
In the lawsuit, FGI asks the court to order the agencies to produce all records within 10 days or another time frame deemed appropriate by the court.