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Finance Committee votes on Azar HHS nomination


 

REPORTING FROM A SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE HEARING

With a Senate Finance Committee vote of 15 to 12, Alex Azar’s nomination for secretary of Health & Human Services has been sent to the full Senate for consideration.

Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said at a Jan. 17 hearing that “by any objective account, Mr. Azar is very well qualified for this important position. He has close to two decades of experience, the right expertise, and sound judgment.”

Alex M. Azar II Wikimedia Commons/WWsgConnect/CC-SA 4.0

Alex M. Azar II

Mr. Azar has previously been confirmed to two posts at HHS, first as general counsel and later as deputy HHS secretary during the administration of President George W. Bush between 2001-2007. Both appointments were confirmed by unanimous consent when presented to the Senate.

Most recently, Mr. Azar served as president of Eli Lilly’s U.S. operations from 2012 to 2017 after joining the company in 2007. His drug industry ties have raised concerns that the agency’s regulatory actions would be favorable to pharmaceutical manufacturers at the expense of patients. However, at his confirmation hearing, Mr. Azar noted that he would be willing to investigate government drug price negotiations for Medicare Part B drugs.

The top Democrat on the Finance Committee, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) voted against Mr. Azar’s nomination, noting that President Trump “famously said, his words, in the 2016 campaign, ‘price-hiking drug companies were getting away with murder.’ The President has now nominated a drug company executive with a documented history of raising drug prices.”

Sen. Wyden noted that prices of many commonly prescribed drugs “more than doubled under [Mr. Azar’s] watch” while no drugs saw a decline in pricing.

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