Craig Kelly in bid to ‘influence’ government scientists on hydroxychloroquine

Craig Kelly in bid to ‘influence’ government scientists on hydroxychloroquine

Mr Kelly is seeking to overturn that advice.

In an earlier unpublished interview with The Age and Sydney Morning Herald in October, Mr Kelly described a meeting he had with Mr Hunt on the matter last year.

“I said ‘Greg [Hunt] these people are wrong’. They are not looking at the relevant studies. They are relying on a study that has been debunked. There are numerous, I’m talking 20-plus, other studies, that show hydroxychloroquine is reducing the rate of death,” he said.

“Greg says ‘I have to listen to the taskforce. I have to listen to the TGA.’ So I put all my efforts into trying to influence the task force and the TGA,” Mr Kelly said last October.

A spokesman for Mr Hunt said Mr Kelly’s “views have been rejected categorically and have had zero impact”. Comment was also sought from the TGA on Mr Kelly’s approaches.

A spokesperson for the task force said there was no relationship between it and the TGA.

On Friday, Mr Kelly said he had stopped lobbying late last year after his private correspondence was the subject of freedom of information applications.

“As a member of the government, I have a responsibility to make sure that groups that are government funded … if they are making recommendations to the government, they are not missing crucial bits of the puzzle,” he said on Friday.

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Opposition health spokesman Mark Butler said Prime Minister Scott Morrison “needs to immediately reassure the public that Mr Kelly will no longer seek to influence the task force and the TGA”.

“MPs should not be trying to influence the National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce and the TGA.

“The TGA must be able to make its important decisions with complete independence and free of any attempts of influence from members of Parliament.”

The taskforce is part-funded by the federal government to bring together the nation’s top health bodies to review evidence and develop guidelines on preventing and treating COVID-19.

Mr Kelly said the task force’s conclusions on hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin were wrong.

He said he had been emailing the taskforce “on a weekly basis [to] explain to them, [the studies] they rely on…. has been debunked and discredited”.

In October, Mr Kelly said he was “attacking the position of the government I belong to, because we’re the ones that set up this task force”.

“They are denying Australians access to a medicine and medical treatment.

“I think this is perhaps one of the greatest medical scandals in living memory. I don’t say that lightly.”

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison this week reprimanded Mr Kelly for airing his disputed claims about COVID-19.

Mr Kelly held a press conference on Wednesday in which he confirmed Mr Morrison had phoned him the day before, but he said the call had not included any criticism of his public statements or his decision to appear on a podcast with celebrity chef Pete Evans, who has been removed from Facebook for spreading misinformation about COVID-19.

Mr Morrison declined to comment for this story.

Emails from Mr Kelly to taskforce members, released to The Age and Sydney Morning Herald under freedom of information laws, show he asked them to “make urgent recommends [sic] to state chief medical officers to remove their ban on doctors prescribing [hydroxychloroquine] to treat Covid.”

The emails were first reported by Business Insider.

Senator David Leyonhjelm at Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday 12 February 2019.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Meanwhile, the TGA has confirmed it is considering taking action against a former federal politician, ex-Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm, for promoting the use of an ivermectin worming product for horses as a treatment for COVID-19.

Mr Leyonhjelm tweeted an image of the worming product with the caption: “In several countries, ivermectin is being used to treat Covid. For those who want some, this horse product is probably the most economical source. Enough to treat the street too.”

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A spokeswoman for the TGA, Australia’s drugs watchdog, said the tweet appeared to promote an equine drug for human use.

“Unapproved therapeutic goods and prescription medicines cannot be advertised to consumers in Australia,” the spokeswoman said.

“The TGA is concerned about this kind of promotion. The TGA strongly advises against using any product which states it is for animal use only for personal use.

“The TGA will write to the individual outlining their regulatory obligations, and this may involve compliance action; and will require a response from the individual.”

Asked about the TGA’s response, Mr Leyonhjelm said: “I blame our declining education standards for this obvious example of poor literacy.

“My tweet clearly stated “For those who want some”.

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