The Senate finance committee has approved president Donald Trump’s nominee for chief of the Dept. of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar. The former drug company executive is expected to be confirmed by the full Senate.
If confirmed, Azar will succeed Tom Price, who was forced out after reports from Politico revealed he often used pricey charter jets on the taxpayer’s dime. Senate Republicans have argued that Azar, who previously worked as president of Eli Lilly‘s (NYSE:LLY) U.S. business, will be an asset to HHS given his experience in the pharmaceutical industry.
At his confirmation hearing last week, Senate Democrats probed Azar about his time at Eli Lilly, criticizing the nominee for drug price hikes that took place while he was working there.
Azar has repeatedly said that drug prices are too high and has largely stuck to traditionally-conservative talking points when asked about how he would aim to bring prices down – encourage competition from generics and prevent companies from gaming the patent system.
Azar worked as general counsel for HHS from 2001 to 2005 under president George W. Bush. He also served as the department’s deputy secretary for two years.
At Azar’s confirmation hearing before the Senate finance committee, Sen. Ron Wyden (D.-Ore.) asked Azar if he ever lowered the price of drug made by Lilly.
“I don’t know that there is any drug price of a branded product that has ever gone down from any company on any drug in the United States because every incentive in this system is toward higher prices,” Azar reportedly explained.
“And that is where we can do things together working as the government to get at this. No one company is going to fix that system, that’s why I want to be here working with you.”