President Trump is nominating a former pharmaceutical executive to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, the agency that, among other things, regulates prescription drugs.
Mr. Trump made his announcement in a Twitter post while traveling in Asia. In recent state elections in Virginia, Democrats won a competitive governors race that saw health care emerge as a top issue.
Azar previously worked at the department as deputy secretary under President George W. Bush before joining the pharmaceutical industry. The drugmaker has drawn criticism from patient advocacy groups for price increases to one of its biggest products: insulin, used to treat high blood sugar for almost 100 years.
"He's precise, highly motivated, he has high standards for performance for himself and for other people", said Mike Leavitt, who was HHS secretary when Azar was deputy. This time, he'll face Democrats wary of the administration's unyielding quest to repeal the Affordable Care Act. "The drug companies, frankly, are getting away with murder", the president said at a Cabinet meeting this fall.
If confirmed, Azar would be tasked with attempting to roll back drug prices and overseeing Medicare and Medicaid programs, and implementing the controversial Affordable Care Act- legislation that Trump has promised to repeal while on the campaign trail but has been unsuccessful since he took office after Congress repeatedly failed to pass a series of repeal-and-replace bills. Prices are "out of control".
If confirmed, Azar would join the club of Trump administration officials from big business.
Azar admirers say his industry experience should be considered an asset, not a liability.
As secretary, Azar would have broad authority over many aspects of the program.