Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

This #GivingTuesday, whatever is your first priority, your second priority has to be independent media.

2021 has been one of the most dangerous and difficult years for independent journalism that we’ve ever seen. Our democracy is facing existential threats including the climate emergency, vaccine apartheid amid deadly pandemic, a global crisis for biodiversity, reproductive freedoms under assault, rising authoritarianism worldwide, and corporate-funded corruption of democracy that run beneath all of this. Giving Tuesday is a critical opportunity to make sure our journalism remains funded so that we can stay focused on all your priority issues. Please contribute today to keep Common Dreams alive and growing.

Please Help This #GivingTuesday -- Though our content is free to all, less than 1% of our readers give. We’re counting on you. Please help Common Dreams end the year strong.

Alex Azar, the former U.S. president of drug giant Eli Lilly and Co. This would put the pharma industry in charge of regulating its own exorbitant prices and it seems likely that his private interests would swamp aspirations towards public service.

"Alex Azar, the former U.S. president of drug giant Eli Lilly and Co. This would put the pharma industry in charge of regulating its own exorbitant prices and it seems likely that his private interests would swamp aspirations towards public service." (Photo: Worldwide Speakers Group)

With Trump's HHS Pick Big Pharma Takes Over Our Health System

A typical case of the revolving door of Washington, D.C.

Justin Mendoza

 by The Hill

Donald Trump announced his nominee to replace Tom Price for the nation’s top health post.

His pick? Alex Azar, the former U.S. president of drug giant Eli Lilly and Co. This would put the pharma industry in charge of regulating its own exorbitant prices and it seems likely that his private interests would swamp aspirations towards public service.

A stroll through Azar’s history would make him seem relatively innocuous — he’s a Yale educated lawyer who clerked for Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. During George W. Bush’s presidency, he was general counsel and deputy assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush.

Azar then left to become vice president and then president of Lilly USA, LLC. He’s even been quoted saying that patients pay too much for prescription drugs, then going on to talk about the role of insurers, and prescription benefit managers contribute to how patients experience high drug prices.

His choice to join Eli Lilly’s staff was questionable at the time, given that he had previously been an administrator overseeing investigations into the corporation’s creation of marketing materials for unapproved use of one of their products.

In a typical case of the revolving door of Washington, D.C., Alex Azar left his post at HHS to take on leadership at one of the biggest pharmaceutical corporations in the country – one that is notorious for raising the price of it Insulin products by more than one thousand percent since 1994.

During Azar’s tenure as vice president and president of Eli Lilly, the corporation increased  the list price of Humalog insulin by 345 percent from just over $2,600 to more than $9,000. While price gouging consumers, the corporation spent millions to lobby Congress, the Department of Health and Human Services, and other administrative agencies — $5.7 million in 2016 alone.

Eli Lilly is also named in a class action lawsuit which alleges that the corporation colluded with Novo Nordisk and Sanofi in order to keep the prices in the U.S. insulin market increasing over time. Much of the activity in the case occurred during Azar’s time as the President of Eli Lilly USA.

Azar’s statements on drug prices show a bias towards big pharma. When asked about drug prices at the Veeva Sumit on May 8, 2017, he avoided addressing price controls, limitations on high drug prices, or even admitting the prescription drug industry’s role in setting high drug prices. He pivoted to the insurance industry as a culprit.

Azar has also called for lower barriers for regulation and safety of prescription drugs in multiple remarks, saying that regulators have set an “unrealistically high bar for new innovations to clear.”

Public support for lowering drug prices is at an all-time high, with Americans from both major parties backing the idea to lower drug prices. Even Donald Trump has repeatedly called for reform, calling out prescription drug corporations for “getting away with murder.”

The Trump administration’s appointments for HHS secretary tell an entirely different story. Tom Price was riddled with scandal over investments made in pharmaceutical corporations while he was working on a trade agenda that directly benefited those corporations. After Price was ousted for unethical behavior, Trump has decided to double down on the influence of the industry by appointing a former drug corporation president to head the agency.

Azar’s resume is full of experience both in the private and public sectors of health care and to some that resume may make him a more competent choice for HHS Secretary than his predecessor. Azar’s major conflict of interest and previous statements suggest that he is not prepared to run the agency that could work towards the top issue for many Americans — lowering drug prices.

Alex Azar’s nomination to Health and Human Services undercuts the administration’s message on lowering drug prices, and Senate should not confirm Azar to the role.


© 2021 The Hill

Justin Mendoza

Justin Mendoza is the organizer for Public Citizen's Access to Medicines program, which works to challenge Big Pharma's economic and political power in the U.S. and abroad and was founded as a part of Public Citizen in 2010.

... 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.

Research Reveals How PR Firms Have Spent Decades Fueling Climate Misinformation

"The best time to stop working for fossil fuel clients was 20 years ago, when we had much more time to stop the climate emergency. The second best time is now."

Jessica Corbett ·


Progressives Decry US Gun Control Failures After 'Truly Sickening' Michigan School Shooting

"A 15-year-old shooter may have picked up the weapon, but Congress—through its inaction on gun violence—may as well have handed it to him."

Brett Wilkins ·


New Climate Study Predicting More Rain Than Snow in the Arctic 'Rings Alarm Bells'

"There are huge ramifications of these changes," said the lead researcher, "all of which have implications on wildlife populations and human livelihoods."

Jessica Corbett ·


Durbin Introduces Amendment to End 'Legacy of Cruelty' by Closing Guantánamo

"It's time at long last to face reality and... close the detention facility at Guantánamo. Let's put this dark chapter behind us once and for all."

Brett Wilkins ·


With SCOTUS Set to Hear Abortion Case, Anti-Choice Groups Prepare to Enact 'Post-Roe Strategy'

Right-wing groups are lobbying lawmakers to pass state-level restrictions and ban sales of abortion pills, should Roe v. Wade be overturned.

Julia Conley ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo