Trump to tap ex-pharma executive Azar as U.S. health secretary

Deputy Secretary Alex M. Azar and Ireland's former Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney

Deputy Secretary Alex M. Azar and Ireland's former Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney

Just days after news that Trump was set to select ex-Eli Lilly executive Alex Azar for the US government's top healthcare post, he tweeted the nomination Monday morning.

President Donald Trump on Monday said he will nominate former pharmaceutical executive and industry lobbyist Alex Azar to serve as U.S. Health and Human Services secretary, saying Azar would push to lower the price of medicines.

Azar's Senate confirmation could be hard, with the chamber's 48 Democrats unlikely to approve a candidate who supports dismantling the Affordable Care Act.

The nomination follows the resignation of Trump's first HHS secretary, Tom Price. Azar served for five years as president of Lilly USA, LLC, the largest affiliate of global biopharmaceutical leader Eli Lilly and Company.

Democrats have also sought greater transparency in setting drug prices from pharmaceutical executives. Investigations into Price's actions are ongoing.

Azar's nomination must be approved by the U.S. Senate, which is controlled by Trump's fellow Republicans. The complexity of pharmaceutical pricing has thwarted legislation to lower drug prices. It will be interesting to see if Azar attempts to unravel his personal holdings prior to confirmation hearings, or go the route that Trump and many of his other Cabinet picks have and just ignore the norm of divestiture for public service.

If confirmed, Azar will be tasked with rolling back drug prices, overseeing Medicare and Medicaid programs, and implementing the controversial Affordable Care Act (ACA).

As head of HHS, Azar would have oversight responsibility for the US Food and Drug Administration, which regulates the drug industry including approving new treatments.

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