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COLUMN: Alex Azar is not fit to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services



President Trump nominated Alex Azar for Secretary of Health and Human Services on Nov. 13, 2017, after former Sec. Price left for spending taxpayer money on charter jets

After his hearings in the Senate, it has become evident that Azar is not fit for a position that puts him in charge of the health of millions of Americans.

Azar is the former president of the United States division of Eli Lilly, a pharmaceutical company. He has prior experience in the public sector, as the deputy Secretary of HHS under President Bush

President Trump stated that Azar would “be a start for better health care and lower drug prices.” And, in the past, Azar has aligned himself with the president’s views, citing that the Affordable Care Act is a “fundamentally broken system.” 

However, Azar’s actions as a pharmaceutical executive do not seem to match the president’s statements. 

In his 10 years with Lilly, the prices for insulin, a best-seller for the company, almost tripled. In 2014, prices increased on some medication between 19 and 24 percent. 

This was followed by increases in 2015 and 2016 as well. The price increases have continued through this year. 

In May of 2017, Lilly increased the prices of nine drugs by 6 to 10 percent. These drugs included insulin, as well as blood thinners and Prozac

While Azar may be a successful president of a pharmaceutical company, these successes put him at odds with Trump’s messages about the drug companies. 

In October of this year, Trump stated that he wanted to reduce the prices of prescription drugs. He said the “drug companies were ‘frankly getting away with murder.’” 

The administrations past actions worked to lower drug prices. On Nov. 1, 2017,  the administration changed the hospital outpatient payment rule to help lower the cost of drugs for those on Medicare

Because of this alone, Azar’s past actions contradict the message from the administration. When undergoing questioning by the Senate, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, said he needed to be convinced that Azar would help American people over pharmaceutical companies.

When discussing the price hikes for insulin that occurred during Azar’s tenure at Lilly, Azar stated  Lilly’s actions helped make the company money, but did little to help patients.  

Lilly also received information about the price of insulin from the attorney generals of California, Florida, Minnesota, New Mexico and Washington

Trump has used strong rhetoric against drug prices and that message, and the American people have matched that outrage. In January of 2017, Mylan increased the price of Epi-pen and was met with a social media and public relation outrage

Trump seemed to match this dissatisfaction.  

If the President wants to prove that he is sincere in his dedication to lower drug prices, he should not appoint the man responsible for the price hikes of insulin and other life-saving medications. Doing so would be contrary to his goals. 

npatwari@indiana.edu

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