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Alex Azar confirmed as new HHS Secretary

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Alex Azar confirmed as new HHS Secretary

Alex Azar confirmed as new HHS Secretary January 30, 2018

A former drug company and government executive has been confirmed as the next Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). Alex Azar was confirmed by a 55-43 vote, to replace Tom Price who resigned in the fall of 2017.

Azar is the former president of Eli Lilly & Co.’s US operations, where he spent five years overseeing the production of medications, including Cialis, Cymbalta, and several forms of insulin. Prior to his work at Eli Lilly, Azar served in the Department of HHS under President George W. Bush.

In his new role as HHS Secretary, Azar will oversee the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the agency that regulates those medications produced by companies like Eli Lilly, as well as Medicare and Medicaid. Rising drug prices are a major issue facing the new Secretary.

PBS reports that Azar has indicated he will have four main priorities in his new role: “to help curb the high cost of prescription drugs, make health insurance more affordable and available, continue bipartisan efforts to focus Medicare payments on quality, and confront the growing opioid addiction epidemic.”

A lawyer by profession, Azar has also served on the board of directors of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, a trade group for biotech companies. Although some have doubted that he can fulfill his promise to reduce the costs of prescription drugs, others have described Azar as “steady, knowledgeable and willing to hear both sides.”

Azar’s ties to the pharmaceutical industry have raised questions among many consumer groups as to whether he can be impartial. Azar responded that he is his own man. “I don’t have pharma’s policy agenda,” he told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “This is the most important job I will have in a lifetime, and my commitment is to the American people.”

Elation Health will continue to share pertinent news about HHS and the newly confirmed Secretary, Alex Azar, as part of our mission to support independent physicians with the information they need to be successful.