Trump Leaning Toward Nominating Former Pharma Executive Alex Azar for Health Secretary

Alex Azar, pictured in 2008 during his tenure as the deputy secretary of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush, is also a former pharmaceutical industry executive. | Evan Vucci/AP Photo

President Donald Trump is leaning toward nominating Alex Azar, a former pharmaceutical industry executive and George W. Bush administration official, to serve as Health and Human Services secretary, according to two White House officials.

If chosen, Azar would replace Georgia Republican Tom Price, who resigned in September after POLITICO reported that he spent more than $1 million in taxpayer money on private and government planes for travel.

One official said Trump had signed off on Azar, but another cautioned that the pick wouldn’t be final until the White House makes a formal announcement. A third Trump administration official confirmed that Azar has been shortlisted for the job.

Other contenders long seen as top candidates for the job — including Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma, and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb — are no longer under consideration, according to multiple sources.

Neither Azar nor the White House immediately responded to requests for comment.

Azar is a veteran of HHS. He served as the department’s general counsel and deputy secretary during the Bush administration. While at the department, he worked closely with Eric Hargan, who was confirmed earlier this month as Trump’s deputy HHS secretary and has been acting secretary since Price’s Sept. 29 departure.

Azar has spent most of the past decade inside the drug industry, one of the key sectors he’ll regulate at HHS. Azar joined pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Company in June 2007 as a senior vice president of corporate affairs and communications right after leaving the Bush administration.

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SOURCE: Politico, Andrew Restuccia, Eliana Johnson, Sarah Karlin-Smith and Josh Dawsey