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CPC to Senators: Halt Confirmation of Azar until Investigation into His Role in Illegal Price Gouging is Complete

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), along with CPC Healthcare Taskforce Chair Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), sent the attached letter to the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. The letter expresses the Caucus’ strong opposition to the nomination of President Trump’s pharmaceutical executive nominee, Alex Azar, to be the next Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services due to ongoing state investigations into Azar’s potential involvement in dangerous drug-price spikes while serving as CEO of Eli Lilly.

The full letter can be found here.


Dear Chairman Alexander, Ranking Member Murray, Chairman Hatch, and Ranking Member Wyden:

            We write to express our concern regarding the nomination of Alex Azar as the Secretary Health and Human Services and to ask that he not be confirmed until pending legal investigations into Eli Lilly USA, the drug company Alex Azar served as President, for its pricing of insulin drugs are fully resolved. The Attorneys General in five states have issued subpoenas of Eli Lilly regarding its pricing of insulin while Mr. Azar was a senior executive.

            From 2007 to 2017, Mr. Azar served in senior management positions including President at pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly USA.  Mr. Azar played a key role in raising drug prices, many by double-digits, across many of their products, including the life-sustaining insulin. Eli Lilly raised the prices on it insulins, Humalog and Humulin, by 20.8% in 2014, 16.9% in 2015, 7.5% in 2016, and 7.8% in the first quarter of 2017. Insulin is not a new drug that drug companies are pricing to recoup its investment. Insulin has been around for almost a century, but in the U.S. only three companies hold the patents to manufacture insulin, one of them being Eli Lilly.While Eli Lilly is a leader in raising drug prices, there is concern that these three companies together may have colluded in raising insulin prices.

            According to Eli Lilly’s May 1, 2017 and July 28, 2017 Securities and Exchange Commission filings, Attorneys General in Washington, New Mexico, Minnesota, California, and Florida have issued subpoenas of Eli Lilly regarding its pricing of insulin at the time Mr. Azar led Eli Lilly USA. While the law varies in each state, the issuance of a subpoena indicates that each Attorney General has reason to believe Eli Lilly may be in possession of documents that aid in the investigation of suspected violations of state law.

While the details of these ongoing investigations are not yet available, we know some of the deadly results of insulin price spikes. After years of Eli Lilly price increases, Shane Patrick Boyle died on March 18, 2017 after he started a GoFundMe campaign to pay for insulin, but fell $50 short. Alec Raeshawn Smith, age 26, was found dead in his apartment on June 27, 2017. It was reported that he was intentionally rationing his insulin after he aged out of his parents’ insurance coverage and could not afford his insulin. Those dangerous insulin price spikes went unchecked at Eli Lilly and lives were put into jeopardy. We cannot entrust Mr. Azar to oversee the largest health agency in the country without knowing the depths of his activity in spiking the price of life-sustaining drugs.

The Secretary of Health and Human Services is responsible for the health of millions of Americans. Alex Azar’s role and Eli Lilly’s involvement in price gouging must be fully investigated and revealed before he is put in charge of overseeing American’s health needs. We strongly urge you not to confirm Alex Azar’s nomination while ongoing legal investigations into Eli Lilly’s drug pricing have yet to be resolved.  

Sincerely,

RAUL GRIJALVA MARK POCAN JAN SCHAKOWSKY
Member of Congress Member of Congress Member of Congress


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The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) is the largest caucus within the House Democratic Caucus, with over 70 members standing up for progressive ideals in Washington and throughout the country. Since 1991, the CPC has advocated for progressive policies that prioritize working Americans over corporate interests, fight economic and social inequality, and promote civil liberties. The CPC champions progressive policy solutions like comprehensive immigration reform, a $15 national minimum wage, fair trade, gun violence reform, debt-free college, and making the federal government a Model Employer.

 

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