In a move critics said betrays President Donald Trump's expressed commitment to lowering drug prices and taking on the power of Big Pharma, Trump on Monday announced that he has chosen former top executive of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly Alex Azar to head the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
"He will be a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices", Trump said in a tweet announcing the nomination.
"Happy to announce, I am nominating Alex Azar to be the next HHS Secretary", Trump tweeted.
Azar previously worked at the department as deputy secretary under President George W. Bush before joining the pharmaceutical industry.
As secretary, Azar may be called upon to alter certain parts of Obamacare.
As secretary, Azar would have broad authority over many aspects of the program.
If Senate confirms his nomination, Azar would replace Tom Price, the administration's first HHS chief, who resigned in September over revelations of his use of private, costly charter jets on government travels. "As a former HHS Deputy Secretary and General Counsel, and former life sciences executive, Mr. Azar is uniquely equipped to work with HHS' umbrella agencies in AHRQ, CMS, FDA and HRSA to tackle independent and cross agency thorny policy issues requiring tough talk and action". "We hope that day one, Alex Azar begins to restore life-affirming care to our healthcare system, rather than abusing people's consciences and wallets in service of Planned Parenthood and its allies". Ron Wydenand Patty Murray outlined 51 priorities for the next HHS secretary - some of which conflict with Trump's agenda. "Maybe he should have asked the six million diabetic Americans whose insulin prices have more than tripled under Azar's watch at Eli Lilly", Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen's Access to Medicines Program, said in a statement.
Other names that have been floated to replace Price include Seema Verma, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and Scott Gottlieb, the Food and Drug Administration commissioner.