President Donald Trump on Monday said he is nominating former pharmaceutical executive and industry lobbyist Alex Azar to serve as US Health and Human Services secretary, saying Azar would push to lower the price of medicines.
If confirmed, Azar, who is from Lebanese origins, also would take the lead in implementing Trump's campaign promise to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, the 2010 healthcare overhaul passed under former Democratic President Barack Obama. Azar joined Lilly in 2007 as a senior vice president of global corporate affairs and communications. Those issues are potential political challenges for Azar and will, no doubt, be discussed during his confirmation hearings where Democrats can be expected to challenge, in particular, his ability or willingness to address drug prices or other pharmaceutical company issues. Trump wrote on Twitter. He worked at Eli Lilly for 10 years, spending the latter half of his tenure as president of the company's USA division, according to The New York Times, where he oversaw men's health, women's health, neuroscience, immunology, cardiology and the Alzheimer's sales teams. He also pointed to Eli Lilly raising drug prices by double digits while Azar was an executive at the company.
Azar, though a spokesman, declined to comment. "The nomination of Alex Azar, the former head of Eli Lilly's US operations, shows that Trump was never serious about his promise to stop the pharmaceutical industry from 'getting away with murder'".
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Mr. Azar must now be vetted by the Senate.
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.
Meanwhile, representatives from the pharmaceutical, insurance and healthcare industries, particularly those that have directly worked with him n his government and private sector roles, issued statements in support of Azar. Interestingly, a day after the previous HHS Secretary, Tom Price, resigned, Alex Azar exercised an insider option to purchase shares in HMS Holdings, bringing his publicly known total of shares in the company to over 17,000 with a current market value over $255,000 in a company with a market cap of over $1.3 billion.