Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

"It is highly unlikely that a pharmaceutical company executive who has made passionate arguments against price restraints is going to advance real reform," said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. (Photo: Worldwide Speakers Group)

Warnings of 'Big Pharma Coup' as Trump Considers Drug Exec. for Health Secretary

"Trump has decided to cut out the middleman, and let a pharmaceutical executive literally run the health department."

Jake Johnson

With media reports indicating that President Donald Trump is leaning toward selecting former pharmaceutical industry executive Alex Azar to head the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen warned in a statement Wednesday that Azar's appointment would essentially complete "Big Pharma's coup of the healthcare sphere."

"Just days after denouncing 'out-of-control' drug prices, President Donald Trump appears set to show he doesn't mean it by naming a former pharmaceutical company executive to run the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,"
—Robert Weissman, Public Citizen
"Just days after denouncing 'out-of-control' drug prices, President Donald Trump appears set to show he doesn't mean it by naming a former pharmaceutical company executive to run the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services," said Public Citizen president Robert Weissman. "In his public statements, Alex Azar has made clear that he is opposed to measures to restrain drug company profiteering and limit improper marketing and favors weaker drug safety approval standards."

Azar spent a decade as an executive with the pharma giant Eli Lilly, where he directed the company's sales operations. Before joining Eli Lilly, Azar served as deputy secretary of the HHS under George W. Bush.

As Politico reports, Azar also happens to be "one of the many drug industry executives" who contributed to Trump's presidential campaign—a fact that runs counter to the president's frequent criticism of elected officials who take cash from pharma executives.

If nominated, Azar would be filling the role left vacant by Tom Price, who resigned last month amid growing outrage over his use of private jets to travel across the U.S. on government business.

Weissman argued on Wednesday that while Price was a supporter of the pharmaceutical industry, Azar would take Big Pharma's influence on American healthcare to the next level.

"The swamp only gets worse," Weisman said. "Trump has decided to cut out the middleman, and let a pharmaceutical executive literally run the health department."

Weissman concluded that Azar's nomination would effectively foreclose the possibility of any substantive steps toward tackling high drug prices or pharma monopolies.

"Americans understand, passionately, that drug company price gouging leads to rationing of care. It is unethical and must end," Weissman said. "But it is highly unlikely that a pharmaceutical company executive who has made passionate arguments against price restraints is going to advance real reform."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Entirely Reckless': Critics Blast EU Plan to Boost Gas Infrastructure

"Deepening its own dependence on volatile fossil fuels" in response to Russia's attack on Ukraine, said one campaigner, "is the last thing Europe should be doing."

Jessica Corbett ·


Sanders Applauds Denton, Texas for Passing 100th Local Resolution Backing Medicare for All

"The way we will pass Medicare for All," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, "is by continuing to build a strong grassroots movement that is prepared to take on the big money interests."

Jake Johnson ·


US Military Clears Itself of Blame in Syria Strike That Killed 'Piles' of Women and Children

"It's the standard government line: Mistakes were made but there was no wrongdoing. But if the same mistakes were being made over and over again for years, shouldn't someone have done something about it?"

Brett Wilkins ·


House Progressives Urge Executive Action From Biden on Baby Formula 'Emergency'

"We have an infant hunger crisis looming," said Rep. Ayanna Pressley, "and a whole of government response is required."

Kenny Stancil ·


Plan to Discharge Fukushima Water Into Pacific Gets OK From Regulators

The discharge could release a number of radioactive isotopes into the Pacific Ocean, critics say.

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo