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Senate Confirms Azar as Next HHS Secretary

Posted 24 January 2018 | By Zachary Brennan 

Senate Confirms Azar as Next HHS Secretary

The US Senate on Wednesday voted 55-43 mostly along party lines to confirm former Eli Lilly executive Alex Azar as the next secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Before a Senate committee in November, Azar vowed to make drug prices his top priority. He also said he would look to negotiate drug prices under Medicare Part B and he would work with US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb to focus on pharmaceutical company abuses of the patent system that restrict the influx of generic drugs.

Azar said earlier this month that he wants to work on creating incentives to pull down list prices, adding, "We have to make sure we go after any gaming of exclusivities or patents."

Azar, a graduate of Yale Law School and former HHS general counsel and board member of industry group BIO, takes the helm of HHS after his predecessor Tom Price resigned after taking at least $400,000 worth of chartered flights as secretary.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) and Health Subcommittee Chairman Michael C. Burgess (R-TX) said in a statement Wednesday: "An HHS veteran, Secretary Azar is uniquely equipped for this new role. We are confident he has the understanding of the issues facing our broken health care system, and the skills and experience necessary to implement commonsense, patient-centered solutions." 

Industry group PhRMA said in a statement: "PhRMA congratulates Alex Azar on his confirmation as Secretary of Health and Human Services, and we look forward to working with him in this new role to improve patient affordability and access to medicines. His broad health expertise and extensive experience in both the public and private sectors will serve to make him an effective leader in tackling our nation’s health challenges."

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