The Trump administration today nominated Alex Azar, who spent nearly 10 years at Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY) after working in the second Bush administration, as secretary of the U.S. Health & Human Services Dept.
The former HHS head, Dr. Tom Price, resigned in September after days of fending off criticism over chartered flights he took on the public dime. Price racked up roughly $1 million in private and government air travel in just seven months, according to Politico.
“It’s a great pick for where the agency is right now,” Lanhee Chen, who worked with Azar on Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, told the website. “I don’t think anybody can question his credentials from an experience perspective.”
“As both a former HHS deputy secretary and general counsel, together with his private-sector experience, Alex Azar has the knowledge, expertise, and leadership to oversee our Nation’s health response,” added AIDS Institute deputy executive director Carl Schmid.
“On behalf of AdvaMed and our member companies, I want to personally congratulate Alex Azar on his nomination as secretary of HHS. The president has made a smart choice; Alex is a tested leader in the hard-fought battles to advance health care within the department and across the country. I saw that leadership and character firsthand when I served with Alex at HHS. His expertise across a broad spectrum of issues – from public health to medical technology and beyond – will serve the nation well,” Scott Whitaker, CEO of the Advanced Medical Technology Assn., said in prepared remarks. “These are challenging times for national health policy, and Alex has a full understanding of what it will take to address those issues and meet the high standard of quality care Americans deserve. He also appreciates that, to meet our goals, we need to foster an environment that continues to put innovation at the vanguard of health care delivery.
“I urge the Senate to confirm Alex quickly, and pledge our support in helping him and the Department fulfill its mission,” Whitaker said.
Democrats, however, questioned Azar’s ability to distance himself from the pharma industry.
“All these drug corporations are jacking up prices because Washington isn’t doing its job to oversee them, and so I have great concerns,” Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) told Politico. “I’ll look at it when it officially comes to us, but I’m very disquieted.”
“They’ve also said they’re going to drain the swamp and crack down on Wall Street,” added Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). “You’ve got the rhetoric. Let’s see what the reality is.”
“I would hope people would evaluate him based on the entirety of his career,” Chen told the website. “It’s politics, so you can imagine how people might use his background against him. But I hope that they don’t.”