Former Pharmaceutical Company Executive Picked to Run HHS

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President Donald Trump announced on Twitter Monday he selected Alex Azar to fill the post of HHS secretary, left open by Tom Price, MD, who resigned September 29 following an investigation into his extensive use of taxpayer-funded private jets.

Azar would replace former Secretary Tom Price who resigned amid an ethics scandal. Azar joined Lilly in 2007 as a senior vice president of global corporate affairs and communications. Azar previously served as a high-ranking executive at Eli Lilly, which has repeatedly raised the prices of its drugs, doubling the USA list price of its top-selling insulin over the 5 years he served as a company president. “If he wants to take meaningful action to lower drug prices, we want to help him”.

Other Democrats were more cautious in their response to Trump’s announcement, with Senator Chuck Schumer calling for the health agency to turn over a new leaf with Azar.

Democratic Senator Patty Murray, who has been working on bipartisan healthcare legislation, tweeted, “Given Alex Azar’s professional background, there are concerns on whether he can fairly execute any significant effort to lower drug prices for patients & families”.

Republicans were supportive with Senate health committee head Lamar Alexander of Tennessee describing Azar as a qualified, experienced nominee.

Currently, Azar is the chairman and founder of Seraphim Strategies, which provides strategic consulting and counsel on biopharmaceutical and health insurance industries.

Alex Azar appears to clearly be an establishment choice with his past experience including serving as General Counsel for HHS before becoming the Deputy Secretary under President George W. Bush.

Azar would be in charge of regulatory matters concerning the industry he helped thrive for more than a decade. Ben Wakana, executive director of advocacy group Patients For Affordable Drugs, told NPR Mr. Azar’s intimate knowledge of the pharmaceutical industry could be an asset as the Trump administration works to reduce drug prices.

Azar said about joining the company.

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