Meet Lebanese-origin Alex Azar, Trump's pick for health secretary

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Meet Lebanese-origin Alex Azar, Trump's pick for health secretary

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, vowed Monday to vigorously oppose President Donald Trump's nomination of a former pharmaceutical executive to serve as the next secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Azar served as the president of the American division of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly from 2012 until January of this year.

Cummings and Senator Bernie Sanders, a 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, previous year called for a federal probe into whether Eli Lilly, Sanofi SA, Merck & Co Inc and Novo Nordisk A/S colluded to set prices on insulin and other diabetes drugs.

Trump, who is in the Philippines on a diplomatic trip, announced the nomination on Twitter by saying Azar would "be a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices". "If he wants to take meaningful action to lower drug prices, we want to help him".

Other Democrats were more cautious in their response to Trump's announcement, with Senator Chuck Schumer calling for the health agency to turn over a new leaf with Azar.

"We need an HHS secretary who is willing to take on the greed of the pharmaceutical industry and lower prescription drug prices", he said, "not one who has financially benefited from this greed".

Mr. Azar must now be vetted by the Senate.

Currently, Azar is the chairman and founder of Seraphim Strategies, which provides strategic consulting and counsel on biopharmaceutical and health insurance industries. Mr. Azar was "active" in the 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign, he wrote in a Yale alumni student profile, and was tapped to serve as general counsel of HHS under Secretary Tommy Thompson during President George W. Bush's first term, which was his first healthcare-focused professional role. Interestingly, a day after the previous HHS Secretary, Tom Price, resigned, Alex Azar exercised an insider option to purchase shares in HMS Holdings, bringing his publicly known total of shares in the company to over 17,000 with a current market value over $255,000 in a company with a market cap of over $1.3 billion. "The nomination of Alex Azar, the former head of Eli Lilly's USA operations, shows that Trump was never serious about his promise to stop the pharmaceutical industry from 'getting away with murder'".

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