Alex Azar, Department of Health and Human Services, DHH, FDA, drug prices

Alex Azar An Excellent Pick for HHS

By Susan Kuebler

Earlier on Monday, Donald Trump announced, via Twitter of course, his selection of Alex Azar to replace former congressman Tom Price as the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

The reaction from Twitterverse was unanimous in its indignation and outrage over this appointment because Mr. Azar had spent 10 years working for (horrors!!!) a pharmaceutical company.  According to his Linked-In profile Mr. Azar began his career with Lilly (formerly Eli Lilly) as a senior vice president of corporate affairs and communications in 2007.  He continued up the corporate ladder, finally serving as the President of Lilly (USA).  He left the company in 2015 to form his own consulting group.  Here are some of the comments against his appointment:

Yes, he worked for a major pharmaceutical company – those FIENDS!!!  Especially the ones who have developed medication that helps children with cystic fibrosis live years longer, delays the onset on Alzheimer’s in many patients, successfully treats people suffering from heart disease, diabetes, blood clots, etc. etc. etc.

But as anyone with the least bit of familiarity on how drug approval and regulation works in the real world, it is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which is the primary agency.  It does work within the framework of HHS, but it is doubtful that Mr. Azar would have much impact on the important operations of the agency.

Then there are other aspects of Mr. Azar’s career and background that these critics conveniently overlook.

He worked as Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services from 2005 to 2007 in the Bush Administration.  This was the number 2 position within the agency, where he oversaw a budget of $698 billion and 66,000 employees.  Prior to that he served as the General Counsel for HHS from 2001 to 2005.

So, all in all, Mr. Azar has six years of experience working for the Department of Health and Human Services and knows how the agency works.  My God, Donald Trump actually found a nominee who knows something about the agency he would be running.

Mr. Azar also received a degree in government and economics from Dartmouth University.  He graduated summa cum laude by the way.  He then earned a J.D. from Yale and went on to clerk for – wait for it – Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.  Yes, that Justice Scalia. That should assuage any fears on the part of conservative pundits.

While many complain about the high costs of drugs, fewer realize that the FDA has no legal authority to regulate drug costs.  Insurance companies generally regulate the costs to their insured through the use of formularies (a listing of approved drugs that they will cover) they negotiate directly with the pharmaceutical companies.

Think about this for a moment – who would be better qualified to negotiate lower prices for drugs covered by Medicare than a respected and knowledgeable individual who could leverage his relationships with most of the major pharmaceutical companies.  What people are calling out as a “conflict of interest” may actually work out better for the American people.

Donald Trump actually got this one right.  Don’t hold your breath for this to happen again any time soon.

"All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well". Julian of Norwich.

Share Your Thoughts?