Alex Azar, the former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, is now the favorite to take over the reins from former Secretary Tom Price after receiving the presidential nomination for the role by President Trump.
During the Presidential term of George W. Bush, Azar served as general counsel to the HHS and Deputy Secretary
President Trump confirmed, via his Twitter account, that he believes Azar is the best person the job, tweeting “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!”
The role of Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services was vacated by former Secretary Tom Price in September 2017, after revelations about his controversial use of military aircraft and expensive charter flights to travel around the United States.
While there were several possible people tipped to receive the nomination, including commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Scott Gottlieb, and administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Seema Verma, President Trump has made a controversial selection.
Alex Azar is a trained lawyer, but has spent the past ten years employed in the pharmaceutical industry – an industry controlled by the HHS. In 2007, Azar joined pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly in the role of senior vice president of corporate affairs and communications before rising to the position of the head of the U.S. division of the firm until January 2017, when he departed to start up his own consulting firm.
The nomination of Azar has caused some concern. While President Trump has tweeted that he sees Azar as the man to help bring down drug prices, Eli Lilly has attracted considerable criticism in the past for increases in drug prices, notably for price rises to Insulin, one of the firm’s most important pharmaceutical products. President Trump has before claimed the pharmaceutical industry is ‘getting away with murder’ setting prices for their medicinal products.
Democrats have already expressed worry about how Azar would be able to help bring down healthcare costs, not sharing Trump’s hopeful view that Azar can help drive prices down.
Azar has also been a constant critic of the Affordable Car Act, sharing President’s Trump’s opinion that the ACA should be repealed. Despite repeated effort, the failure to repeal ACA will mean that if appointed, Azar will be in charge of overseeing enforcement of the ACA.
Before Azar can take over at the Department of Health and Human Services, he must first be approved by Congress. Azar’s history while working in the pharmaceutical industry is certain to be examined, as will his commitment to enforcing the Affordable Care Act that he has previously been strongly against.