HHS secretary nominee Alex Azar raked in millions as executive of pharma company Eli Lilly 

President Donald Trump's nominee to head the Department of Health Human Services earned millions as an executive at the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, newly released financial documents show. 

Alex Azar

Alex Azar served in leadership roles at Eli Lilly for the better part of the last decade, and he stepped down in January to start a consulting firm. The financial disclosures (PDF), released by the Office of Government Ethics, show his full portfolio is worth between $9.5 million and $20.6 million.  

He was paid about $2 million in his final year at the pharma company, according to the documents. 

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He noted in the documents that he no longer holds stock with Eli Lilly, and that he earned a $1.6 million severance when he left the company. In an ethics disclosure (PDF) filed last week, Azar also promised to divest other interests in healthcare entities to avoid a conflict of interest.

Trump pushed for Azar's confirmation in remarks given Monday ahead of a cabinet meeting.

"Last week, I was proud to nominate Alex Azar to serve as the next Secretary of Health and Human Services," Trump said. "I urge the Senate to swiftly confirm his nomination, and I want to thank Acting Secretary Eric Hargan for serving with such devotion and for doing such a great job in the meantime." 

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Despite his ties to pharma, healthcare industry groups have generally praised Azar as a nominee. Chip Kahn, CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals, called him a "perfect pick for the times," and the Healthcare Leadership Council said that Azar would be able to "hit the ground running" on value-based care and other key initiatives. 

But prominent figures from across the aisle like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., have been more skeptical. Sanders questioned the decision to name a former top pharma executive to the HHS post as drug prices in the U.S. continue to skyrocket, and he vowed to oppose Azar's confirmation.

Azar was tapped to lead HHS following the resignation of Tom Price, M.D., in September. Price stepped down amid controversy about his use of private jets for official travel. Don J. Wright, M.D., and Eric Hargan have held the position in the interim.