President Donald J. Trump has nominated Alex Azar II, the head of pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly’s U.S.-based operations until this past January, to be his next HHS secretary, as reported by The New York Times.
Reports indicate that if confirmed, Azar would play a critical role in implementing the president’s efforts to crack down on drug prices in the U.S and the administration’s initiatives to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
At least one Democrat was quick to criticize the nomination.
“President Trump has railed against the pharmaceutical industry ‘getting away with murder’ on drug prices. He promised the American people he would bring skyrocketing drug prices ‘way, way, way, down,’ The New York Times quoted Representative Peter Welch (D-Vermont) as saying. “But when given the chance to put his money where his mouth is, he brazenly nominated a former pharmaceutical executive to lead the agency charged with managing prescription drug costs.”
Conversely, Republicans applauded the nomination and promised to move swiftly to confirm Azar.
“The leader of HHS will be at the tip of the spear, working to not only right the wrongs of this deeply flawed law but also ensure the long-term sustainability of both Medicare and Medicaid,” Senator Orrin Hatch, (R-Utah), said in a reference to ACA. “Mr. Azar has the experience, knowledge and fortitude to take on these daunting challenges.”
Azar had worked for HHS under former President George W. Bush, serving as general counsel and deputy secretary. Azar would replace Tom Price, MD, who resigned in September amidst a scandal surrounding his use of private charter airplanes for government business trips.