Trump chooses drug executive as health secretary

Trump chooses drug executive as health secretary

Trump chooses drug executive as health secretary

WASHINGTON - Turning to an industry he has rebuked, President Trump on Monday picked a former top pharmaceutical and government executive to be his health and human services secretary, overseeing a $1 trillion department responsible for major health insurance programs, medical research, food and drug safety, and public health.

Azar worked for Eli Lilly from 2007 to 2017, serving as president of the company's US division from 2011 to January of this year.

"He will be a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices", Trump said in a tweet announcing the nomination.

Trump's first HHS secretary, Tom Price, resigned in September after his extensive use of private and military jets at taxpayer expense was revealed.

The firm represents a sophisticated client base of Fortune 100 life sciences, health care services companies, and providers as well as innovative, venture and private equity backed companies in diagnostics, digital health, health information technology and health care services.

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While Azar was at Lilly, he also sat on the board of directors of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, a trade group for biotech companies.

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. He was also HHS general counsel in former President George W. Bush's administration from 2001 to 2005. He has been critical of the Affordable Care Act and has supported converting Medicaid into block grants.

Azar previously worked at the department as deputy secretary under President George W. Bush before joining the pharmaceutical industry.

Frustrated by fruitless efforts to overturn the Obama-era health law in Congress, Trump might see the regulatory route as his best chance to make a mark on health care.

Trump has been highly critical of the industry that Azar comes from, saying that drug companies are "getting away with murder" and threatening to use the federal government's buying power to bring down prices.

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