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Former HHS Official, Pharmaceutical Head Picked to Lead HHS

Alex Azar, a former pharmaceutical executive and a top official at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) during the George W. Bush administration, has been picked to lead the agency by President Donald Trump. Azar had previously served as HHS general counsel, then as deputy secretary, before leaving government to join Eli Lilly as an executive. There he spent ten years, rising to become president of Lilly USA. Lilly USA is one of three manufacturers of insulin whose skyrocketing prices prompted a lawsuit from patients earlier this year. The U.S. list price of Lilly USA's Humalog insulin more than doubled under Azar's reign.  

Azar previously clerked for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Due to his background in the pharmaceutical industry, critics are concerned he will turn a blind eye to rising drug prices, which President Trump has vowed to tackle. Azar has also been highly critical of the Affordable Care Act and supports converting Medicaid from an entitlement program into block grants. Despite disagreeing with his politics, many Democrats acknowledge that Azar has the experience and credentials to run the nation's largest civilian agency, and a protracted confirmation process is not expected.