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CPC to Trump: Nomination of Eli Lilly Executive as HHS Secretary Puts Pharmaceutical Fox in Charge of Health Care Hen House

Washington, D.C.- 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 President Trump, expressing strong opposition to reports that former Eli Lilly executive Alex Azar is under consideration as a nominee for Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

The full letter can be found here.


The Honorable Donald J. Trump

President of the United States

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20515

 

Dear Mr. President:

 

We have welcomed your comments about the need to lower prescription drug prices and your recognition of the negative role of large pharmaceutical corporations that boost their profits at the American public’s expense. That is why we are so cconcerned about reprots that Alex Azar, recent president of Eli Lilly’s U.S. affiliate Lilly USA, could be nominated as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. We vigorously urge you not to nominate Mr. Azar and, instead, to propose an individual who is committed to affordable drug pricing and to protecting the public’s health.

As a candidate and as a Presidnet, you have repeatedly addressed the need to “bring drug prices down,” and criticized pharmaceutical corporations for “getting away with murder.” As you have said, “Pharma has a lot of lobbies, a lot of lobbyists and a lot of power. And there’s very little bidding on drugs. We’re the largest buyer of drugs in the world, and yet we don’t bid properly.

As a former Eli Lilly top official (most recently serving for five years as president of Lilly USA), Alex Azar has played a key role in creating the very pharmaceutical industry practices that you have pledged to end. During his tenure, Eli Lilly routinely increased drug prices – many by double-digit amounts. For example, prices for Humalog and Humulin, insulin drugs, were increased by 20.8% in 2014, 16.9% in 2015, 7.5% in 2016, and 7.8% in the first quarter of 2017. At the same time, Eli Lilly is fighting against federal and state legislation to increase drug pricing transparency so that policymakers and the public can learn whether there is any justification for those types of increases on a life-saving drug first developed nearly 100 years ago. In 2016 alone, Eli Lilly spent $5.7 million lobbying Congress, the Department of Health and Human Services, and other administration agencies.

Mr. Azar’s appointment would send a very clear signal that your Administration is happy to put the pharmaceutical fox in charge of the health care henhouse. It would also be a perfect example of revolving door practices that are undermining the public’s trust in their federal government. From 2001 until early 2007,  Mr. Azar worked at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as General Counsel and Deputy Secretary. He worked on a range of issues, including the Medicare modernization Act of 2003 that prevents Medicare from negotiating on prescription idrug prices. That was a top priority of the pharmaceutical industry that Mr. Azar jojined upon leaving the Department. Since leaving Eli Lilly in 2016, he runs Seraphim Strategies to provide strategic advice to biopharmaceuitical and health insurance industries that he would be tasked with overseeing as HHS Secreatry.

The appointment of Mr. Azar would be an indication that your Administration is not committed to lowering prescription drug prices or to changing the practice of putting high-ranking industry officials in the position or regulating their past (and possibly future) employers. Again, we strognly urge you not to nominate Mr. Azar.


 

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