Alex Azar, the former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, is the favourite to take over from former Secretary Tom Price after receiving the presidential nomination for the role. Prior to his nomination, Azar previously served as general counsel to the HHS. He also served as Deputy Secretary of HHS during the George W. Bush administration.
Following his nomination of Azar for the job, President Trump Tweeted that that he believes Azar is the best candidate for the role, tweeting “Happy to announce, I am nominating Alex Azar to be the next HHS Secretary. He will be a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices!”
The former Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, announced his retirement from the role in September. His resignation was sparked by revelations about his controversial use of military aircraft, and his habit of chartering expensive flights to travel around the United States.
Azar was not the only candidate in the running for Secretary of HHS. Several potential candidates who were eligible for the nomination included commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Scott Gottlieb, and administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Seema Verma. To some experts, President Trump has made a controversial choice in choosing Azar as his nomination.
Alex Azar originally trained as a lawyer, but has spent the past ten years working in the pharmaceutical industry. The pharmaceutical industry is regulated by the HHS. In 2007, Azar joined pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly taking on the role of senior vice president of corporate affairs and communications. He eventually became the head of the United States division of the firm until January 2017. When he left the role, he founded his own consulting firm.
The nomination of Azar caused some controversy amongst experts. While President Trump has tweeted that he sees Azar as the man to help lower drug prices, Eli Lilly has attracted considerable criticism in the past for hikes in drug prices. In particular, it has been widely lambasted for the steep rise in price of insulin, one of the firm’s major pharmaceutical products. President Trump has previously claimed the pharmaceutical industry is ‘getting away with murder’ setting prices for their products.
Members of the Democratic party were quick to made their doubts heard about Azar’s capabilities in the role. Democrats are skeptical about how Azar would be able to help lower healthcare costs, not sharing Trump’s optimistic view that Azar can help drive prices down.
Azar is known to be a harsh and vocal critic of the Affordable Care Act. He believes, alongside President’s Trump, that the ACA should be repealed. Despite repeated attempts, the failure to repeal ACA will mean that if appointed, Azar will be responsible for overseeing enforcement of the ACA.
Before Azar can take the helm of the Department of Health and Human Services, he must first be approved by Congress. Azar’s record while serving in the pharmaceutical industry are likely to be finely examined. Furthermore, his commitment to enforcing the Affordable Care Act, to which he is strongly opposed, is likely to be called into question.