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Trump nominee and ex-Lilly exec confirmed as US Health Secretary by Senate

Published on 25/01/18 at 09:45am

Alex Azar, President’s Trump’s controversial pick for Health and Human Services Secretary (HHS), has been confirmed in the role after the US Senate voted 55 to 43 in favour.

When first announced as a nominee last year, Azar understandably came up against a considerable amount of resistance. As Trump’s pick for the role, he will be responsible for spearheading the President’s as yet unrealised promises to bring down drug prices, but during his time at Eli Lilly as its President of its US operations, he oversaw alleged price hikes which saw the company reap an additional $8.7 billion in 2016, according to a recent report by Credit Suisse.

During his tenure in the top US role from 2012 to 2017, the prices of Lilly's insulin drugs Humalog and Humulin N rose 20.81% in 2014 and 16.96% in 2015. Hikes such as these have been argued as necessary as Azar steered the firm through a $4 billion loss in revenue due to lost patent exclusivity.

Prior to his time as President of the company’s US unit, Azar served as Vice President of Lilly’s U.S. Managed Healthcare Services organization and its Puerto Rico affiliate from 2009, and Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Communications before that from 2007. He also served as HHS General Counsel and Deputy Secretary for the Bush administration. Azar succeeds Tom Price, who was forced to leave the role over controversy surrounding his excessive use of expensive private jets for government travel at the expense of the taxpayer.

Azar takes up the mantle at a particularly tough time, and will be responsible for mounting efforts to curb the ongoing opioid epidemic in the country. In addition to this, he will oversee the President’s ongoing attempts to dismantle President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. On the topic, Azar has commented: “I'm not one to say many good things about Obamacare, but one of the nice things in it is, it does give a tremendous amount authority to the secretary of HHS. There are still changes that can be made to make it work a little better than it has been.”

Matt Fellows

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