WASHINGTON — Dan Best, the government’s top drug pricing adviser, has died, the Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday afternoon.
“It is with tremendous sadness that I learned of the passing of our friend and colleague,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. “I had the great privilege to know Dan Best for the past decade. He joined me here at HHS out of a desire to serve the American people by making healthcare more affordable.”
The cause of his death was not specified in Azar’s statement, and HHS spokesperson Caitlin Oakley declined to provide more information when asked.
Best, who served as a senior adviser to Azar on drug pricing since April, brought a wealth of expertise about the drug pricing system to the federal government. He spent over a decade working for pharmacy benefit managers, whose role in the cost of drugs has come under severe scrutiny from the Trump administration and Congress.
Best focused on drug pricing issues at a time when Azar and even President Trump himself put them at the center of their agenda. The administration has been working to overhaul the way Medicare and other government-funded health insurance programs pay for prescription drugs. Best previously worked for private companies that administered these programs.
Former colleagues of Best had previously described him to STAT as a tough but honest negotiator who made decisions that were in the best interest of patients.
“He was very transparent,” Chuck Spinelli, who used to work for Best in the private sector, told STAT in April for a profile about Best and his new role. “He was very honest. He didn’t play any games.”
It is a “difficult day” for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, agency chief Seema Verma said on a press call with reporters about a separate policy change Thursday.
“Many of us just learned about the sudden passing of our friend and colleague Dan Best,” she said. “What a loss to our country and to all of us personally who had the great privilege of working with Dan. We appreciate his dedication, his commitment, his warmth and his sincerity that came through in everything that he did. We will miss Dan dearly and we express our sincerest, sincerest condolences to the entire Best family.”
Azar echoed her statement.
“All of us who served with Dan at HHS and in the administration mourn his passing and extend our thoughts and prayers to his wife Lisa and the entire Best family at this difficult time,” he said.