Trump picks former pharmaceutical executive as new health secretary

Trump picks former pharmaceutical executive as new health secretary

Azar joined Lilly in 2007 as a senior vice president of global corporate affairs and communications. For those opposed to the path Trump has been taking Health and Human Services, Alex Azar symbolizes yet another attack on the progress made by the Affordable Care Act with his policy preferences aimed at undercutting and reversing numerous ACA's provisions.

Trump, who is in the Philippines on a diplomatic trip, announced his intention to nominate Azar on Twitter by saying he would "be a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices".

Azar's grandfather immigrated from Lebanon 100 years ago. Ben Wakana, executive director of advocacy group Patients For Affordable Drugs, told NPR Mr. Azar's intimate knowledge of the pharmaceutical industry could be an asset as the Trump administration works to reduce drug prices. However, Democrats are skeptical he may not be able to lead federal initiatives to reduce drug prices and remain impartial, The New York Times reports. Previously, he was president of Lilly USA, an affiliate of Eli Lilly, from January 2012 to January 2017.

Republicans were supportive with Senate health committee head Lamar Alexander of Tennessee describing Azar as a qualified, experienced nominee.

As head of HHS, Azar would have oversight responsibility for the US Food and Drug Administration, which regulates the drug industry including approving new treatments.

"We know from that work he understands the need to move away from the perverse incentives in the Medicare fee-for-service payment system and to do so in a fashion that incents high-quality care", said Susan DeVore, CEO of Premier. Interestingly, a day after the previous HHS Secretary, Tom Price, resigned, Alex Azar exercised an insider option to purchase shares in HMS Holdings, bringing his publicly known total of shares in the company to over 17,000 with a current market value over $255,000 in a company with a market cap of over $1.3 billion. He also pointed to Eli Lilly raising drug prices by double digits while Azar was an executive at the company.

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