Alex Azar: critics cry “revolving door” as Trump picks pharma executive for top US health job

BMJ 2017; 359 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j5655 (Published 07 December 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;359:j5655
  1. Liz Seegert, freelance journalist, New York City, USA
  1. liz{at}lizseegert.com

What might the appointment of a lawyer who led Eli Lilly US mean for physicians? Liz Seegert reports

Alex Azar, a lawyer, former pharmaceutical executive, and former deputy secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is probably on his way back to the federal department as its top official. HHS is responsible for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and others.

Azar is President Trump’s pick to replace Tom Price, a medical doctor, who resigned as HHS secretary in September after criticisms surrounding more than $1m of approved taxpayer funded travel on private jets. Azar’s nomination is controversial, however, with critics questioning the “revolving door” between his positions in government and industry even though Trump’s presidential campaign had an antilobbying theme.

Although he had no health law experience, Azar was general counsel and then deputy secretary at HHS under President George W Bush. He then spent a decade at Eli Lilly, including five years as head of its US operations. Among its many products, Lilly is a major producer of insulin and …

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