Following news on Monday that President Donald Trump has picked Alex Azar—former top executive at the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly—to run the Department of Health and Human Services, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) issued a statement characterizing the choice as evidence that “Trump was never serious about his promise to stop the pharmaceutical industry from ‘getting away with murder'” and vowing to oppose his confirmation.
“At a time when the United States pays, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, the last thing we need is to put a pharmaceutical executive in charge of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS),” Sanders said.
As Common Dreams has reported, Sanders and several top congressional Democrats introduced legislation in October with the goal of pressuring Trump to act on his criticism of the drug industry by allowing the government to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs.
But Sanders concluded on Monday that Trump’s selection of an industry insider like Azar to head HHS demonstrates that the president has no intention of turning his expressed support for lower drug prices into policy.
“During Mr. Azar’s tenure at Eli Lilly, this multi-billion-dollar corporation dodged taxes while charging Americans outrageously high prices for life-saving prescription drugs,” Sanders concluded. “We need an HHS secretary who is willing to take on the greed of the pharmaceutical industry and lower prescription drug prices, not one who has financially benefited from this greed.”
Sanders was far from the only lawmaker raising significant concerns about Azar’s nomination, given his deep ties to the industry he will be charged with regulating if he makes it through the Senate confirmation process.
“If my priority were bringing down Rx prices, I probably wouldn’t tap a pharmaceutical industry exec accused of colluding to drive up the cost of insulin,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oreg.) wrote on Twitter.