Published: Thu, November 16, 2017
Medicine | By Melba Vasquez

Azar Nominated as Secretary of HHS

Azar Nominated as Secretary of HHS

"President Trump has railed against the pharmaceutical industry "getting away with murder" on drug prices", Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) said, according to The New York Times.

President Donald Trump on Monday said he will nominate former pharmaceutical executive and industry lobbyist Alex Azar to serve as U.S. Health and Human Services secretary, saying Azar would push to lower the price of medicines.

Azar's Senate confirmation could be hard, with the chamber's 48 Democrats unlikely to approve a candidate who supports dismantling the Affordable Care Act. The former Georgia congressman resigned September 29 over a scandal involving his use of private aircraft for government business.

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Former CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt, who has been frequent critic of the Trump administration, said on Twitter he doesn't know Azar well and disagrees with him on a number of policies, but still has reason to believe he would make a good HHS secretary. "The nomination of Alex Azar, the former head of Eli Lilly's USA operations, shows that Trump was never serious about his promise to stop the pharmaceutical industry from 'getting away with murder'".

The HHS secretary nominee worked at the department during the administration of George W. Bush as deputy secretary and as general counsel. Lilly is one of three drug companies targeted by a class-action lawsuit that accuses the company, then under Azar's watch, of exploiting the drug pricing system to ensure higher profit for insulin and has been fined in Mexico for colluding on the pricing of the drug.

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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".

Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said Azar has qualifications and experience to get results and he will quickly schedule a hearing on his nomination.

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