President Trump on Monday morning announced via Twitter that he’ll nominate Alex Azar to be Health and Human Services secretary, replacing Tom Price, who was forced to resign in September after revelations that he took multiple trips on government and private jets at taxpayer expense.
A conservative and Obamacare critic, Azar had worked at HHS during the George W. Bush administration, first as general counsel and then as deputy secretary. He also worked at pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly for nearly a decade, according to his LinkedIn profile, and spent about four years on the board of directors of a drug industry lobbying group. Earlier this year, he founded a biopharmaceutical and health care consulting business.
“He will be a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices!” the president tweeted.
But Azar’s pharmaceutical industry background prompted immediate questions about potential conflicts of interest and criticism from Democrats, who expressed concern about how he will handle Obamacare and whether he will be tough on drug makers. “President Trump has railed against the pharmaceutical industry ‘getting away with murder’ on drug prices,” Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) said, according to The New York Times. “He promised the American people he would bring skyrocketing drug prices ‘way, way, way, down.’ But when given the chance to put his money where his mouth is, he brazenly nominated a former pharmaceutical executive to lead the agency charged with managing prescription drug costs. Instead of draining the swamp, he has set the fox to guard the henhouse.”