Alex Azar Tapped as New Head of HHS

The Trump administration announced Monday that it has selected former pharmaceutical executive and a former general counsel to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Alex Azar, to lead HHS.

Azar has worked as a healthcare industry consultant since January, when he left his role as president of Indiana-based Lilly USA, the largest affiliate of drugmaker Eli Lilly, according to an article in the Washington Post. Azar also worked at HHS during the George W. Bush administration, serving the HHS general counsel after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and later as deputy secretary.

As noted in Trump’s tweeted announcement, Azar has advocated for lower prescription drug prices. And, according to the Washington Post, he has also supported the conversion to electronic health records (EHRs) and was present for the advent of Medicare prescription drug benefits.

“Azar has echoed much of the pharma playbook on pricing in recent months, deflecting blame for high costs to other parts of the industry and to other countries,” Politico Pro reported. “He’s opposed government negotiations of drug pricing and drug importation, and suggested during a Fox News appearance that the administration should pressure Europe over its ‘radical price controls.’”

During his legal career, Azar clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and worked under his mentor Kenneth Starr.

Additionally, Azar has been on the record as an opponent of the Affordable Care Act. The Washington Post writes that he is expected to follow Trump’s lead in removing parts of the healthcare law through executive action.

Azar would replace Acting HHS Secretary Eric Hargan, who stepped in when former HHS Secretary and Georgia Congressman Tom Price was forced from office after allegedly spending over a million dollars on costs associated with travel on private jets.

Mary Butler is the associate editor at The Journal of AHIMA.

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