New HHS Secretary Azar Aims to Tackle Drug Prices, Affordable Care

March 07, 2018 by Alec Stone MA, MPA, Former ONS Director of Government Affairs and Advocacy
Alec Stone
Alec Stone MA, MPA, ONS Public Affairs Director

On January 24, 2018, the Senate officially confirmed the nomination of Alex Azar (, the newest secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Azar replaces former HHS secretary Tom Price, a physician who stepped down in late 2017. Although confirmed along party lines, Azar’s long governmental experience had plenty of support despite his past connections to the pharmaceutical industry.

Azar stated his goals for his tenure at the HSS, including reducing soaring drug prices for Americans, among other administrational priorities. In a news release regarding President Trump’s 2019 budget (, Azar outlined the four current priorities for the HHS, which include, “addressing the opioid crisis, bringing down the high price of prescription drugs, increasing the affordability and accessibility of health insurance, and improving Medicare in ways that push our health system toward paying for value rather than volume.”

Previously serving as HHS deputy secretary in the Bush administration, Azar was the agency’s general counsel from 2001–2005. He later worked in the private sector for pharmaceutical companies and in global health affairs. Opioid epidemic funding, Medicaid employment regulations, National Institutes of Health funding, and more top the list of the department’s important issues to review.

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