Who Is Alex Azar? Narrated by Paul Scheer
Alex Azar is a Big Pharma exec, who advocates for raising drug prices for those in need, and is the guy Trump put in charge of lowering drug prices for those in need.
Alex Michael Azar ll was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania in 1967 to parents who were so apolitical, he didn’t know which side of the aisle they were on. Starved of a passed down political opinion, a young Azar formed his own. By third grade, he had a subscription to Conservative Digest.
Azar attended Dartmouth, where he was a member of the Kappa Kappa Kappa fraternity, graduating in 1988. After Dartmouth, Azar graduated from Yale Law School in 1991, a year after classmate, Brett Kavanaugh.
After Yale, Azar clerked for a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. But, according to Politico, just about six weeks after his start, he was reportedly fired and replaced by Brett Kavanaugh. So in a way, perhaps if Azar had done a better job at keeping his job, Kavanaugh wouldn’t have obtained the resume needed to one day secure a lifetime appointment on the United States Supreme Court
Azar went on to clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia. After parting ways with him, Azar played a role as an assistant independent counsel in the Whitewater investigation, where Kavanaugh joined him. Then, he went to bat as a lawyer for George W. Bush during the infamous 2000 Florida recount, which Bush won before the manual recount was completed. Azar’s questionable legal tactics secured him a role on the transition team, where—according to the Washington Post—he screened “potential senior White House staff and Cabinet members.” It’s unclear if Azar screened and put in a good word for people like Donald Rumsfeld.
Bush’s HHS secretary, Tommy Thompson, picked Azar to be the department’s general counsel—quite possibly because—according to a 2001 Washington Post report—HHS was looking to scale back “efforts to promote family planning and contraception” while “aggressively promoting abstinence-only programs.” Azar resigned from his post in 2007, before going to work for one of the 15 largest drug companies in the world: Eli Lilly. Before Azar took over as Lilly’s VP of corporate affairs and communications, the company was swept up in scandal. Lilly illegally marketed unapproved uses for one of their drugs intended to treat bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and pushed it on nursing homes for off-label uses like dementia, without any proof that it would work.
In 2012, Azar was promoted to President of Lilly USA, the company’s largest affiliate. Under Azar’s leadership, the company significantly raised its drug prices. Lilly more than doubled the U.S. list price of their top-selling insulin, which increased from $123 per vial in 2012 to $255 when Azar left in 2017.
In 2017, after he raised drug prices at Lilly, Trump - for some reason - decided to put him in charge of lowering drug prices as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Trump tweeted, “Happy to announce, I am nominating Alex Azar to be the next HHS Secretary. He will be a star for better health care and lower drug prices!” Critics were quick to close in. Bernie Sanders fired back, “Trump was clearly never serious about his promise to lower drug prices. We need an HHS secretary who will take on the drug industry's greed, not someone who has financially benefited from it.”
Azar has focused on several anti-abortion measures. Equity Forward, a watchdog organization which examines anti-reproductive health groups and individuals, notes, Azar’s “shocking moves include hurting women’s health by targeting the ACA birth control mandate, pushing to finalize the domestic gagrule and moving to backtrack federal regulations around gender discrimination.” Azar was also left in charge of the migrant children detained in U.S. facilities. His HHS was unprepared for the amount of children in their custody and facilities quickly reached capacity. Between September 2018 and May 2019, six children died either in U.S. custody or shortly after leaving. Some newly reunited children also showed signs of severe psychological trauma. Meanwhile, Azar claimed the work the HHS was doing to separate children from their parents was "one of the great acts of American generosity" and also life saving.
It’s unclear where Azar will go from here, but if his history of pricing drugs is any indication, it’s probably up!