Who is Alex Azar, Trump's reported pick for HHS secretary?

White House officials say President Trump is leaning toward nominating Alex Azar, a former pharmaceutical industry executive and government official under former President George W. Bush, as the nation's new HHS secretary.

Former HHS Secretary Tom Price last month resigned in the wake of federal investigations and growing criticism over his use of private planes for official HHS business. Trump last week announced that he appointed Eric Hargan—who the Senate had confirmed as the department's deputy secretary—as acting HHS secretary.

Trump considers new contenders for HHS secretary

In addition to Azar, Trump reportedly has considered CMS Administrator Seema Verma, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, and Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin for the role of HHS secretary, according to Healthcare IT News.

However, a Republican briefed on the HHS nomination said Verma and Gottlieb are no longer under consideration, the Washington Post's "PowerPost" reports. Gottlieb in an interview last week said he felt he can be "most effective" at FDA, according to FiercePharma

According to Politico, an anonymous White House official said Trump has signed off on nominating Azar. Another official confirmed that the Trump administration has shortlisted Azar for the position, Politico reports. However, a third official said the nomination would not be final until the White House issues a formal announcement.

Azar's background

Azar served as general counsel and deputy secretary at HHS under the Bush administration. According to "PowerPost," Azar while at HHS worked on issues including:

  • Anthrax attacks that occurred in the United States;
  • Stem cell policy;
  • The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks;  and
  • The start of Medicare Part D.

Azar joined Eli Lilly and Company in 2007 as the company's SVP of corporate affairs and communications. Azar in 2012 began overseeing the company's U.S. operations, which he did until he left the company in January of this year.

During his tenure at Eli Lilly, Azar focused on counterfeit treatments, health information technology, and federal and international government affairs and public policy. After resigning from Eli Lily, Azar founded a health care consulting firm called Seraphim Strategies.

Comments

Mike Leavitt, who served as HHS secretary under the Bush administration, said "If the president is looking for an experienced, competent conservative who is confirmable, [Azar] would be a great choice."

Tommy Thompson, who also served as HHS secretary under the Bush administration, said Azar "is an experienced leader with deep substantive health care knowledge" and a "record of proven competence" (Restuccia et al., Politico, 10/17; Eilperin/Goldstein, "PowerPost," Washington Post, 10/17; Savransky, The Hill, 10/17; Davis, Healthcare IT News, 10/17; Spitzer, Becker's Hospital Review, 10/17; Sagonowsky, FiercePharma, 10/11). 

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