President Trump has nominated Alex Azar, a former Eli Lilly executive, as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

If he’s confirmed, Azar will have broad authority over many of the Trump administration’s major health priorities. He’ll oversee the implementation of Obamacare as well as the mammoth Medicare and Medicaid programs. He’ll be involved in efforts to address the opioids crisis and in decisions about funding for key women’s health and pregnancy prevention initiatives, among a host of other policies.

But it is Azar’s tenure at Lilly and his background in the pharmaceutical world that has generated the most controversy during his confirmation process so far. At a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing last week, his plans to address drug prices animated far more of the lawmakers’ questions than did other issues.


Before the Senate can vote to approve or reject his confirmation, the chamber’s powerful Finance Committee will get its own chance to put him in the spotlight. That meeting hasn’t yet been scheduled.

Readers joined me and STAT’s other D.C. reporters, Lev Facher and Ike Swetlitz, for a chat as we dove into the lingering questions about Azar’s confirmation process and what he might do as secretary, if he’s confirmed.

A transcript is below.

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  • How does Azar feel about having Medicare engage in pricing negotiations with suppliers?

    Any thoughts on his views on new potentially very disruptive competitors in the supply chain … Amazon?

  • Not sure how to actually join the chat (to liven it up a bit and become more conversational) … looks like we can only post comments (tried three Mac browsers and one PC browser – none could engage except through comments).

  • How will Mr. Azar respond to Senator Paul’s request to certify medication from Canada and the EU? Will Mr. Azar continue to argue that drugs from Canada and Europe are unsafe?

  • An article ran in today’s Washington Post discussing cities, counties and school districts that offer programs allowing their employees to access medication through international pharmacies. Last month FDA criminal investigators notified individuals and business in Florida that help these individuals order medication from Canadian and international pharmacies that they are in violation of federal law and could be arrested and prosecuted. Under your leadership will the FDA continue to criminalize these individuals who are struggling with the high price of medicine and simply trying to make ends meet? Why is the FDA targeting individuals and small businesses but allowing cities, counties and school boards to offer international pharmacy programs to their employees?

  • I’m interested in Azar’s experience with rare diseases. Do you know if he has any experience at Lilly with rare disease?

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