Saturday, 25 November, 2017

Trump to tap ex-pharma executive Azar as USA health secretary

ERIC THAYER—Reuters The South Portico of the White House is seen in Washington
Melissa Porter | 15 November, 2017, 09:51

President Donald Trump has nominated Alex Azar, a former pharmaceutical executive, to run the Department of Health and Human Services.

"In fact, the ACA is working despite President Trump and former HHS Secretary Tom Price's repeated efforts to repeal and sabotage it - open enrollment is off to a strong start, plans remain affordable and every county in the country is covered".

Azar worked at Eli Lilly for a decade, including five years as president of its USA affiliate Lilly USA unit, and left the company in January, according to his LinkedIn page. "He will be a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices!"

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. Democrats and other critics are likely to raise questions about the administration's seriousness about lowering drug prices with a former industry executive leading such a charge.

The resignation of Tom Price was seen as politically expedient after his spurious usage of private and government aircraft over commercial planes caused an uproar and instigated investigations into the wasteful practice. The complexity of pharmaceutical pricing has thwarted legislation to lower drug prices.

Azar, though a spokesman, declined to comment.

Alex Azar is the latest Hoosier headed to Washington for a post in the federal health sector. Azar also served in Health and Human Services during President George W. Bush's administration, as general counsel and as deputy secretary.

The nomination of Azar represents a shift for Trump, who in his Cabinet picks to date often has not selected candidates with experience in the department they would oversee.

"In his public statements, Alex Azar has made clear that he is opposed to measures to restrain prescription companies' profiteering and limit improper marketing, while favoring weaker safety approval standards".