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Trump staffers were given controlled substances by White House medical unit, report claims

The White House Medical Unit has come under fire thanks to a recent report from the Department of Defense (AFP via Getty Images)
The White House Medical Unit has come under fire thanks to a recent report from the Department of Defense (AFP via Getty Images)

The White House Medical Unit (WHMU) dispensed controlled substances to ineligible staffers and had “severe and systemic problems” under the Trump administration, according to a new report from the Department of Defense Office of the Inspector General.

The report is based on 70 interviews with staffers employed between 2009 and 2018, as well as prescription records from 2017 to 2019. During those two years, the WHMU “dispensed prescription medications, including controlled substances, to ineligible White House staff,” according to the report.

These problems stemmed from “the unit’s reliance on ineffective internal controls to ensure compliance with pharmacy safety standards.”

“The White House Medical Unit dispensed non‑emergency controlled medications, such as Ambien and Provigil, without verifying the patient’s identity,” the report reads. “The White House Medical Unit also left over‑the‑counter medications in open bins for patient retrieval and use.”

White House Medical Unit officials said they kept pharmaceutical records for only two years, according to the report, meaning investigators only had access to records 2017 to 2019.

The report also concluded the WHMU “routinely requested brand‑name drugs rather than generic equivalents when ordering controlled substances from Walter Reed.”

“For example, over a 3‑year period, the White House Medical Unit spent an estimated $46,500 for brand name Ambien, which is 174 times more expensive than the generic equivalent,” the report reads.

The Office of the Inspector General made several recommendations in the report, including developing “a pharmaceutical oversight plan“ for the WHMU. The Department of Defense concurred with all recommendations listed in the report, according to an attached memo from Lester Martínez-López, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs.

“We recommend that the Director of the Defense Health Agency, in coordination with the White House Medical Unit Director, develop policy and procedures to manage controlled and non‑controlled medications, including, at a minimum, procurement, storage and inventory, prescribing and dispensing, and disposal,” the report reads.

Keith Bass was appointed Director of the WHMU in 2013 and served until 2019, according to the Veteran Affairs website and his LinkedIn profile. He was the first non-physician appointed to the role, per his LinkedIn.

In this role, he “planned, supervised, and oversaw the mission-critical 24/7/365 delivery of complex emergency and comprehensive medical care to the President, the Vice President, and their families across three Presidential Administration,” according to his biography on the Veteran Affairs website.

The Independent has contacted Mr Bass for comment.

This isn’t the first time the WHMU has made headlines in recent years.

In 2018, allegations arose that Ronny Jackson, former WHMU director 2010-2014 and White House physician 2013-2018, was drunk on the job and handed out drugs to staff members during work trips. President Donald Trump nominated Mr Jackson for Secretary of Veteran Affairs, but he later withdrew after these reports arose.

A report three years later from the DOD concluded Mr Jackson engaged in “inappropriate conduct” when he was the White House physician.

Mr Jackson served as Physician to the President and Chief Medical Advisor during the 2017-2019 timeframe highlighted in the report, a spokesperson told The Independent, meaning he had no association with the WHMU clinical practices.

“He was Physician to the President and later Chief Medical Advisor,” a spokesperson for Mr Jackson said. The Chief Medical Advisor is a policy role, not clinical. This healthcare policy role had no association or involvement with the White House Medical Unit’s clinical delivery of care.”

Mr Jackson is now a Republican representative from Texas.

The US Department of Defense declined to comment further on the report.The Independent has contacted the Office of Donald Trump for comment.