A new report from CNN alleges that the White House medical unit has operated as a "grab and go" clinic where officials could pick up powerful prescription drugs like Ambien and antibiotics without being seen by a doctor

By Tierney McAfee
April 27, 2018 12:32 PM
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President Donald Trump
Credit: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty

A new report from CNN alleges that the White House medical unit has operated as a “grab and go” clinic where officials could pick up powerful prescription drugs like Ambien and antibiotics without being seen by a doctor.

At the heart of the allegations is Dr. Ronny Jackson — President Donald Trump‘s White House physician and nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs — who some of the medical unit’s former and current employees allege to CNN endorsed a culture of prescription drug mishandling. Jackson withdrew his VA nomination Thursday morning in response to the allegations, which he denies.

The employee sources, who worked at the medical unit under President Trump and/or former President Obama, said prescription medication was often handed out “like candy,” sometimes without even the most basic medical consultation. Sources said they witnessed outgoing officials being given Provigil, a drug that helps people stay awake, as a “parting gift” for leaving the White House.

One source claimed an Obama White House staffer came into the outpatient clinic and demanded: “I need to pick up a Z-Pak for myself and my wife.” Z-Pak is the common name for the antibiotic Zithromax, which is used to treat everything from sinus infections to STDs.

After the doctor said no and insisted the staffer be examined first, the staffer said: “Dr. Jackson said I can just pick it up and I don’t have to be seen.”

Moments later, another colleague handed over the Z-Paks to the staffer and told to the doctor: “You need to just give people these meds when they ask for it.”

Multiple former medical unit employees told CNN that Jackson’s “overarching philosophy” was to simply hand out pills without following proper protocol.

“We would just hand them out. They’d come in and say, ‘Hey, can I have an Ambien?’ And we would just hand them out. Without having to sign a thing,” another person who has recently worked for Jackson told CNN. “We all had a huge problem with it.”

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The New York Times reported earlier this week that Jackson is also facing allegations of prescription drug misuse, hostile work environment and drunkenness, according to a summary compiled by the Democratic staff of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

The document said that Jackson got intoxicated at a Secret Service going away party and “wrecked a government vehicle.” A nurse on his staff also alleged that Jackson wrote himself prescriptions, and when caught, asked a physician assistant to give him the medication.

Jackson told reporters at the White House on Wednesday that he had “no idea where [the allegations were] coming from” but strongly denied the car accident. “I have not wrecked a car. I can tell you that,” he said.

Jackson, 50, a U.S. Navy rear admiral, was previously a behind-the-scenes nonpartisan figure who also served Obama. The doctor first came under scrutiny — and heavy criticism — in January when he gave an effusively glowing health report on the junk-food-loving Trump that seemed, to many, too good to be true.

As he withdrew his VA nomination on Thursday, Jackson again denied all of the allegations against him, calling them “completely false and fabricated.”

“If they had any merit, I would not have been selected, promoted and entrusted to serve in such a sensitive and important role as physician to three presidents over the past 12 years,” he said. “In my role as a doctor, I have tirelessly worked to provide excellent care for all my patients. In doing so, I have always adhered to the highest ethical standards.”

The White House did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment on Friday.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Wednesday afternoon that Jackson had successfully undergone at least four background investigations, including by the F.B.I., during his time at the White House.

“None of those things have come up in the four separate background investigations that have taken place,” she said of the recent allegations. “There’s been no area of concern that was raised for Dr. Jackson specifically.”

As new allegations surfaced on Wednesday — including one charge that an intoxicated Jackson caused a late-night disturbance during an overseas trip by the Obama administration in 2015 — White House officials again came to Jackson’s defense, calling the charges “outrageous,” according to the Times.