New HHS chief, Alex Azar, takes the helm

Azar expressed support for provider status during confirmation hearing

Alex Azar, the former president of the U.S. arm of Eli Lilly & Co., was sworn in last month as Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). He was President Trump’s pick to lead the department after HHS Secretary Tom Price resigned in September.

APhA Executive Vice President and CEO Thomas E. Menighan, BSPharm, MBA, ScD (Hon), FAPhA said, “APhA and our members look forward to working with Secretary Azar and the Department of Health and Human Services on the many issues of importance to the pharmacy profession, pharmacists, and the patients they serve.”

During his Senate confirmation, Azar received a question about the Pharmacy and Medically Underserved Areas Enhancement Act—which allows Medicare Part B beneficiaries to obtain access to pharmacists’ services in underserved areas. When asked by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Bob Casey (D-PA) if he would support the bipartisan legislation, he responded: “If confirmed, I look forward to learning more about your legislation and working with you to increase access to quality health care, especially in rural and underserved parts of the country.”

Azar also said he would work to bring down high prescription drug prices and combat the opioid epidemic as head of HHS.

This is not the first time Azar has worked for HHS. Before joining Eli Lilly & Co., Azar was general counsel for HHS under President George W. Bush and then deputy secretary for HHS during Bush’s second term.