US Senate confirms Alex Azar as next HHS Secretary

The US Senate voted 55 to 43 on Wednesday to confirm President Donald Trump's nomination of Alex Azar to serve as Health And Human Services (HHS) Secretary. The news follows the Senate Finance Committee's vote earlier this week to move Azar's nomination to the full Senate. 

Azar replaces Tom Price, who resigned in September last year following scrutiny over his use of private and government aircraft for travel. Other people that had been rumoured as potential nominees to head the HHS department included FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. 

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In backing the nomination, Republican lawmakers noted that Azar was familiar with the workings of both government and the pharmaceutical industry. He has served as deputy secretary and general counsel of the HHS department, both during the administration of President George W. Bush, and later headed Eli Lilly's US operations from 2012 to early 2017.

Azar, who has identified lowering drug prices as a key priority, in line with previous comments by Trump, stated during a recent confirmation hearing that "drug prices are too high" in the US, adding "we can do things together…no one company's going to fix this system."

For related analysis, read ViewPoints: A new healthcare Azar? HHS nominee walks a fine line on drug pricing.

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