Trump makes it official, nominates Alex Azar to head HHS

Alex Azar
Alex Azar served as the head of Eli Lilly until he stepped down from the position in January. He had been rumored to be the front-runner for the HHS top post for weeks. (Wwsgconnect)

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!”

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.

RELATED: Former HHS Deputy Secretary Alex Azar among top contenders to replace Tom Price

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.

RELATED: Trump poised to nominate ex-Lilly executive Alex Azar for top HHS job: report

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.