US Senate Holds Hearings on Proposed HHS Secretary NomineeBy
The US Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing relating to the confirmation of President Trump’s nominee for the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Alex Azar, a former executive at Eli Lilly and Company and former HHS Deputy Secretary and General Counsel.
At the hearing, US Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and others questioned Azar about drug policy issues, including how to lower drug prices, deter patent misuse, and create more drug competition.
In reference to drug prices, 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. “Through my experience helping to implement [Medicare] Part D and with my extensive knowledge of how insurance, manufacturers, pharmacy, and government programs work together, I believe I can bring the skills and experiences to the table that can help us address the issues while still encouraging discovery so Americans have access to high-quality care,” he said in testimony before the HELP Committee.
Azar also said he would work with US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb to focus on preventing pharmaceutical companies from abusing the patent system in order to restrict competition from generic drugs. “We need to increase generic and branded competition,” Azar said. “The more drugs we get to the market as Dr. Gottlieb is working on, the more competition we will have. That actually can help bring down costs to the system.”
While the Senate HELP Committee holds a hearing of the HHS Secretary nominee, the US Senate Committee on Finance also holds a hearing and formally votes on his nomination. Depending on the outcome of the vote, the nomination would then be considered by the full Senate.