November 13, 2017

Former Pharmaceutical Company Executive Picked to Run HHS

Holland & Knight Healthcare Blog
Michael J. Werner

Alex Azar, a former executive of Eli Lilly was nominated by President Trump today to be Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Azar would replace former Secretary Tom Price who resigned amid an ethics scandal.

Azar is an attorney and a pharmaceutical industry veteran. He has a reputation for being intelligent, practical, and non-ideological. He has industry and government experience from his work at Lilly where he ultimately became president of the company’s U.S. operations. Prior to that, he served as HHS general counsel and then deputy secretary during his six years with the Bush Administration.

Azar has close political ties with Republican lawmakers and observers believe that during his time with Lilly (and Indiana-based company), he developed a relationship with Vice President Pence.

As HHS Secretary, Azar will be leading the Administration’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and, among other things, address drug pricing and reimbursement. Those issues are potential political challenges for Azar and will, no doubt, be discussed during his confirmation hearings where Democrats can be expected to challenge, in particular, his ability or willingness to address drug prices or other pharmaceutical company issues.

Confirmation hearings will likely begin later this year.

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