While the House spent the week working and voting on their tax plan that would immediately slash $25 billion out of Medicare and the Senate working on their tax plan that would take insurance away from 13 million people, popular vote loser Donald Trump was busy on the health care front, too. He named Alex Azar, former top executive for Eli Lilly, to be the guy in charge of healthcare policy for his administration.
Here’s what you need to know about that, about him.
Lilly is one of three drug companies targeted by a class-action lawsuit that accuses the company, then under Azar’s watch, of exploiting the drug pricing system to ensure higher profit for insulin and has been fined in Mexico for colluding on the pricing of the drug.
Azar, who spent almost a decade at Eli Lilly, rising to become president of the drug giant’s U.S. operations before leaving earlier this year, doesn’t deny drug costs are a consumer issue. But his record there and as a top official in George W. Bush’s administration suggests he’s unlikely to push pricing policies that would hit pharmaceutical companies’ pocketbooks.
Specifically, let’s look at just one of Eli Lilly’s drugs, insulin.
Re Trump’s new HHS pick, a former exec at Eli Lilly, here’s a chart of insulin prices set by Lilly and its primary competitor Novo Nordisk pic.twitter.com/C2W4PLe5vN
— Owen Davis (@odavis_) November 13, 2017
The price for one of Eli Lilly’s insulin drugs, Humulin R U-500, rose 325 percent in price from 2010 to 2015. Insulin. A drug that has been in use for nearly 100 years. There has been years of research and development into different forms of human and synthetic insulin, but nothing to justify a 325 percent price hike into a drug that is necessary to keep 6 million insulin-dependent people in the U.S. alive. The industry—including Eli Lilly—has been preventing a generic version of insulin from being allowed through a process known as evergreening, tweaking with formulas or the devices that deliver insulin to keep their monopolies on the drugs.
Diabetics are struggling to afford this lifesaving medicine, which they have to take on a daily basis. That’s in large part because of Eli Lilly and because of Azar. This is the guy Trump wants to put in charge of the nation’s health.