The ex-president of Eli Lilly and Company is President Donald Trump’s choice to replace Tom Price as Health and Human Services secretary.
Trump announced the nomination via Twitter this morning, stating that former pharmaceutical executive Alex Azar will be “a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices!”
Happy to announce, I am nominating Alex Azar to be the next HHS Secretary. He will be a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 13, 2017
Azar, who left Eli Lilly in January after five years as the head of the pharmaceutical company, has been the front-runner for the top HHS post for the last few weeks. If confirmed, he will replace Tom Price, who resigned a little more than six weeks ago after controversy following reports he spent a $1 million in taxpayer money to travel on private and government planes.
Azar already knows the inner workings of HHS. In addition to his work in the pharma industry, he served as deputy secretary of HHS under the George W. Bush administration. During his tenure under Bush, he also worked with Eric Hargan, who is currently serving as acting secretary of HHS.
And despite his strong connection to drug companies, he has also been a critic of skyrocketing drug prices, an issue that Trump promised voters he’d address during his campaign. But some wonder if Azar will also be powerful ally to the pharma industry, as patent protections and opioid use are also contentious issues facing the government.
Last month former HHS secretaries Michael Leavitt and Tommy Thompson and Republican lawmakers including Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., said Azar would be a good choice for the position, calling him an experienced leader with deep knowledge of the healthcare industry.
But he may not have the support of Democratic leaders. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, told USA Today that he plans to “closely scrutinize” Azar’s record and his commitment to “take … meaningful action to curtail the runaway train of prescription drug costs.” Wyden also said he would ask Azar for his commitment to implement the Affordable Care Act. “Healthcare is too personal to be driven by politics, but that is what the leadership of HHS has offered so far,” Wyden said.