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Alex Azar, Former Drug Company Executive, Nominated for Health Secretary

by Countable | 11.13.17

What’s the story?

On Monday President Trump announced via Twitter that he is nominating Alex Azar as his new Secretary of Health and Human Services. Azar will replace Trump's first HHS Secretary, Tom Price, who resigned after reports revealed he'd spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to travel on private jets.

Azar recently spent 10 years at pharmaceutical corporation, Eli Lilly, but also spent 6 years at the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) under former president George W. Bush.

Azar is considered a "safe pick" according to Republican lawmakers, with strong policy and administration experience. Most recently he spent 10 years at pharmaceutical corporation Eli Lilly. Previously Azar worked at HHS under former president George W. Bush. Some Democrats are already questioning his ties to big pharmaceutical companies, as well as his opposition to the Affordable Care Act.

Who is Alex Azar?

Alex Azar, 50, is originally from Maryland. He received his undergraduate degree in government and economics from Dartmouth College. He then received a law degree from Yale Law School.

Azar clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, then went on to spend two years working under Kenneth Starr during his Whitewater investigation.

From 2001-2007 Azar worked at HHS under former president George W. Bush, first as General Counsel and then as Deputy Secretary.

Upon leaving HHS, Azar took a job at Indiana-based pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, where he ascended to the role of president of Lilly U.S.A. He was at Lilly until 2017.

During his ten years in Indiana, Azar developed a positive working relationship with Vice President Mike Pence, then Indiana’s governor. Azar worked on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. He originally supported Jeb Bush in the 2016 primaries, and then Ted Cruz, but donated to President Trump’s campaign once he became the presidential nominee.

Azar is seen as the opposite of former Secretary Price. "A low-key operator who's since [leaving HHS] remained mostly out of the political spotlight, he is viewed as a near-diametrical opposite of his firebrand predecessor, people close to Azar and the White House's search process said", writes Politico.

Azar is not without strong opinions, however. He has been a frequent guest on business television shows, criticizing the Affordable Care Act and arguing against the expansion of Medicaid. Azar has pointed to the authority afforded by the law to the Health Secretary as one saving grace of the ACA, reports the Washington Post:

"I’m not one to say many good things about Obamacare, but one of the nice things in it is it does give tremendous amount of authority to the secretary of HHS."

Azar is expected to use that authority to support the administration’s attempts to shutdown certain portions of the law. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) expressed that expectation to the New York Times:

"The leader of H.H.S. 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. Mr. Azar has the experience, knowledge and fortitude to take on these daunting challenges."

Democrats are expected to question Azar’s ties to the pharmaceutical industry, whether they will hobble his ability to bring down drug prices and properly enforce existing health care law. In a statement, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), ranking Democrat of the Senate Finance Committee, which will hold confirmation hearings, stated, "I will closely scrutinize Mr. Azar’s record and ask for his commitment to faithfully implement the Affordable Care Act and take decisive, meaningful action to curtail the runaway train of prescription drug costs."

What does HHS do?

The mission of the Health and Human Services Department is "improving the health, safety and well-being of America." The department’s 2017 budget is approximately $1.2 billion.

If confirmed, as Health Secretary Azar will, oversees the Public Health Service, currently led Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who was the Indiana State Health Commissioner. Under the Public Health Service is, among other agencies, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health, the Indian Health Service and the Food and Drug Administration.

HHS also oversees the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, currently led by Seema Verma, who also has long history in the Indiana health policy community.

What do you think?

Do you think Azar is a "safe pick"? Do you support his nomination or not? If you do, what do you like about him? If you don’t, what are your concerns?

Tell us in the comments what you think, then use the Take Action button to tell your reps!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Creative Commons)

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(56)
  • Joanne
    11/14/2017
    ···

    NO NO to Azar. He, as other trump picks are all about the money, not the welfare of the people. During his stay at Eli Lilly prices for insulin skyrocketed. This is a red flag if ever there was one.

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  • I.Got.an.Idea...
    11/13/2017
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    I suspect that Azar may be partly responsible for the Opioid Epidemic in America and around the globe. From the sounds of the parties he totles tea with, its not likely he will offer the United States Citizens anything health related or positive to improving Health initiatives for American Citizens.

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  • Ticktock
    11/13/2017
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    Great. The one industry that is single handedly driving health cost beyond affordability and Trump appoints the Fox to be in charge of the hen house. If this doesn’t give Trump supporters clear evidence of where Trump stands nothing will. You just need to surrender your pocket books and savings (if you have any) to Azar because after the pharmaceutical industry gets the go ahead you will not have savings or anything in your pockets except dust.

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  • OlderNWiser
    11/14/2017
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    So the pattern of placing the exact worst possible person in positions of power continues. The Big Pharma rep who helped create the opioid epidemic will be in charge of a position that demands a thinking scientist. The revolving door continues to confer power on the unthinking, uncaring, know-nothing plutocrats to harm the American people with impunity. No! We, the People deserve real representation with real experts—not further defrauding for purposes of increasing the wealth of the 1% including #45.

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  • Sheryl
    11/13/2017
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    THIS is NOT draining the swamp! THIS is feeding the alligators, breeding lizards and providing Petrie dishes to primordial ooze. Trump has proven to be a political con man! The phrase that comes to mind is, “Let them eat cake”

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  • Jennifer
    11/14/2017
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    This man, because of his ties to big pharma, is unlikely to make the health of the citizens of this country his priority. His is unequivocally unqualified for this position. Please do NOT confirm. Your yes vote will show your constituents that your priorities are with big pharma and not with them.

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  • CannabisSavedMe
    11/14/2017
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    Stop being science deniers and legalize cannabis for all Americans!

    Like (4)
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  • Mike
    11/14/2017
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    At this point, and based upon previous words and actions, I find it difficult to accept ANYTHING this president does as being wise and thoughtful. His decision making capabilities are suspect. He does not vet people who he appoints or nominates. Bottom line.......I do not trust him, period.

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  • Nancy
    11/13/2017
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    Please do not appoint Alex Azar, to lead the Health and Human Services Department. His ties to the drug industry should disqualify him for this position.

    Like (3)
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  • RadicalModerate
    11/14/2017
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    I spiritually identify as a keeper of the seed. As someone who is discriminated against for a practice that will save the earth I’m discouraged by this assault on my people.

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  • RadicalModerate
    11/14/2017
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    Great. Must be they’ll bring down the price of drugs by legalizing cannabis. Supply and demand ya know? Once people have weed, they won’t need as many drugs and the prices will go down. Right? Good. That must be how the administration plans to improve the health of Americans. Smart. And when all the tax revenue from selling cannabis starts rolling in. The middle class will see tax cuts. I knew it. Thank you Donald Trump. And god bless you.

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  • Laura
    11/14/2017
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    Stop putting unqualified individuals in positions of power, or in positions that could be deemed as “a conflict of interest” from their previous employment. Extreme vetting must be mandated for positions of power.

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  • Christine
    11/13/2017
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    Senators! Please vote NO to Alex Azar as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Big pharma and their lobbyists are continuously screwing the American people. Their pills have side effects leading to more pills. They push opioid prescriptions leading to a crisis and should not be rewarded. Pharmaceuticals are a SCAM.

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  • Countryfirst
    11/14/2017
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    Another trump lover who wants to end the ACA, Medicare and Medicaid..great, screw the regular folks yet again!!

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  • John
    11/14/2017
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    So Mr. Azar takes another turn through the revolving door between government and business. I will be pleasantly surprised if he's not confirmed, but expect he'll be another alligator added to the swamp.

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  • Christopher
    11/14/2017
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    Another Conservative without a cause; can we please nominate someone who doesn’t have a predisposition to undermining the public and the welfare of the country? The strongest message to the Trump Administration would be to block any further appointments until the Muller Investigation is completed and Administration cleared of any wrongdoing.

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  • Jesse
    11/13/2017
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    Not my choice for this position

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  • Jan
    11/13/2017
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    Vote NO on the confirmation of Alex Azar for Secretary of Health and Human Services. His ties to big pharmaceuticals should disqualify him.

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  • Temple
    11/14/2017
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    Absolutely a worst choice, No!

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  • Terry
    11/13/2017
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    NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!!!!!!

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