Senate Confirms Alex Azar as New HHS SecretaryBy
The US Senate has confirmed Alex Azar, a former executive at Eli Lilly and Company, as Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Azar was also a former HHS Deputy Secretary and General Counsel.
The Senate confirmed his nomination on January 24, 2018 in a 55-to-43 vote. Azar fills the vacancy that was made when Tom Price, the previous HHS Secretary, resigned in September 2017. President Trump nominated Azar in November 2017.
At his Senate confirmation hearing, Azar outlined four critical areas he plans to focus on in his role as HHS secretary: (1) lowering drug prices; (2) making healthcare more affordable, more available, and more tailored to what individuals want and need in their care; (3) shifting the focus in the healthcare system from paying for procedures and sickness to paying for health and outcomes; and (4) addressing the opioid epidemic.
With respect to drug pricing, Azar, who previously worked in HHS for six years, said he would be able to leverage his experience in implementing Medicare Part D, the prescription drug benefit portion of Medicare, along with his experience in the healthcare industry. Azar also said he would work with US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb to focus on preventing pharmaceutical companies from misusing the patent system in order to restrict competition from generic drugs.