Earlier this week, President Trump nominated a man named Alex Azar to become the new Health and Human Service (HHS) secretary, a post left absent after Tom Price resigned due to a private plane scandal. You may not have heard of Azar before, but as has been reported by STAT News, he’s got a wildly inappropriate past.
Before serving as the recent Bush administration’s HHS deputy secretary, Azar has spent the last decade as a key drug industry executive at Eli Lilly and Company, a pharmaceutical giant.
While there, he earned millions intensely lobbying the federal government, at one point while the firm was under investigation from the Justice Department for improperly advertising schizophrenia medication. Ultimately, they were given a penalty of $1.42 billion, whose criminal fine of $515 million was the largest ever in an American healthcare case.
The company has been the target of more than one federal probe over the years, as it so happens. Bizarrely, back in 2007, they were accused by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of misleading marketing for treatment for dogs.
Clearly, this company hasn’t exactly got a stellar record when it comes to healthcare – and it gets worse.
As noted by The Nation, during Azar’s reign, the price of insulin was raised by more than 360 percent. Insulin is a life-saving drug for around 100 million Americans with diabetes, and the only reason the price was increased was to make more money from selling it.
Eli Lilly, as the first company to mass produce insulin in the US, still holds considerable sway over the market. It sells its insulin at an eye-watering price of $269 per vial, up from the $21 back in the mid-1990s and $74 back in the mid-2000s.
Back in March, and on several other occasions beforehand, Trump has said that the prices of drugs in America are too high, and that price gouging – the profit-over-accessibility hikes in the cost of treatment – needs to be stopped.
“Pricing for the American people will come way down!” he tweeted. Does picking an Eli Lily executive to head the HHS make any sense in this regard? Of course not – and now the person who partly oversaw the insulin price hike is now responsible for helping to regulate it.
Appointing anyone who helped run it to the post of HHS secretary is as irresponsible as the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent decision to allow coal and petrochemical lobbyists to hold senior positions at the agency.