President Donald Trump on Monday said he will nominate former pharmaceutical executive Alex Azar to serve as U.S. Health and Human Services secretary, saying Azar would push to lower the price of medicines.
A conservative and Obamacare critic, Azar had worked at HHS during the George W. Bush administration, first as general counsel and then as deputy secretary.
Azar's nomination is sure to encounter more pushback. More recently, Azar served in many roles with Eli Lilly and Company, an global pharmaceutical company, where as President of Lilly USA, he oversaw the substantial rise in drug prices while simultaneously serving on the board for the world's largest pharmaceutical lobby, Biotechnology Innovation Organization.
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If confirmed, Azar also would take the lead in implementing Trump's campaign promise to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, the 2010 healthcare overhaul passed under former Democratic President Barack Obama.
Gottlieb's name was one floated for the HHS chief position after former secretary Tom Price resigned in September, but the FDA commissioner said in a Reuters interview he felt he is "most effective" at the drug agency.
Azar has also said he is against expanding Medicaid reimbursements, which provide insurance to almost 130 million Americans under the Affordable Care Act, saying that he would prefer to use government money through "private-sector vehicles" in order to provide health care.
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Cowen analyst Eric Assaraf, for his part, wrote in a note seen by Business Insider that even though "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". "Instead of draining the swamp, he has set the fox to guard the henhouse".
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also expressed concern about the appointment.
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