The White House just nominated Alex Azar as top health official after Tom Price’s private-plane scandal

Tom Price and Donald Trump.

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Tom Price and Donald Trump.
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Mark Wilson/Getty Images

  • President Donald Trump has nominated a former pharmaceutical executive, Alex Azar, to be secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • The nomination comes two months after Tom Price resigned as HHS secretary in response to the private-plane scandal.
  • Azar worked at the department as deputy secretary under President George W. Bush before joining the pharmaceutical industry.

President Donald Trump on Monday named Alex Azar as his nomination for secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Azar is Trump’s choice to replace Tom Price, who resigned from the position in September after his use of private jets was reported to have cost taxpayers more than $1 million.

“He will be a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices,” Trump said in a tweet announcing Azar’s nomination.

Azar worked as HHS deputy secretary from 2005 to 2007 under President George W. Bush.

Shortly after, he joined the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly as a senior vice president of corporate affairs and communications and eventually became president of Lilly USA, according to his LinkedIn profile. He left Lilly in January and now consults and counsels with pharmaceutical and health-insurance companies.

As HHS secretary, Azar would oversee health agencies including the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates pharmaceutical companies including Lilly.

Whether Azar would actually bring down drug prices if confirmed as HHS secretary remains to be seen, though many aren’t counting on it.

“Although Trump specifically called out lowering drug prices in his announcement of Azar, we don’t believe his appointment will mark a change in course in that realm,” the Cowen analyst Eric Assaraf wrote in a note.

Even so, leaders in the Senate seemed open to giving Azar a chance.

“I will closely scrutinize Mr. Azar’s record and ask for his commitment to faithfully implement the Affordable Care Act and take decisive, meaningful action to curtail the runaway train of prescription drug costs,” Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon said in a statement. “Health care is too personal to be driven by politics, but that is what the leadership of HHS has offered so far.”