Trump nominates Azar for HHS secretary

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has picked a former top pharmaceutical and government executive be his Health and Human Services secretary.

If confirmed by the Senate, Alex Azar will oversee a $1-trillion department responsible for major health insurance programs, medical research, food and drug safety, and public health.

In making the pick, Trump turned to an industry’s he’s rebuked.

The Azar nomination is unusual because HHS secretaries have tended to come from the ranks of elected officials such as governors — not industries regulated by the department.

Azar, 50, a lawyer by training, has spent the last 10 years with pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, rising to president of its key U.S. affiliate before leaving in January to start his own consulting firm. He’s seen as an expert on government health care regulation.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro released a statement in response to President Trump’s nomination of Azar. DeLauro is the Senior Democrat on the Appropriations subcommittee responsible for funding the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.

“President Trump’s nomination of Alex Azar to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services follows a disturbing pattern of filling top positions with people who want to undermine the Affordable Care Act. While at least Mr. Azar has worked at the Department before, he is a known opponent of the Affordable Care Act. If confirmed, Mr. Azar would have broad discretion to continue the Trump administration’s efforts to undermine the ACA—and I have no reason to believe he would do otherwise.”

“Just as concerning is Mr. Azar’s background as a pharmaceutical company executive. President Trump campaigned on a promise to lower drug prices for Americans, yet Mr. Azar has publicly stated that he did not foresee any progress on that front. Ever-increasing drug prices are squeezing Americans’ budgets—especially those of our nation’s seniors. The American people deserve an HHS Secretary that will look out for their health and well-being, not profits of pharmaceutical companies.”