Azar Backs Pharma Over the People

Jan. 9, 2018

Azar Backs Pharma Over the People

Statement of Peter Maybarduk, Director, Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines Program

Note: Today the U.S. Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on the nomination of former Lilly USA President Alex Azar to serve as secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). Last week, 60 organizations signed a letter to all U.S. senators opposing Azar’s nomination.

We need an HHS secretary who will challenge pharmaceutical corporations, not one who works this hard to explain away pharma’s responsibility for high costs.

Pharma corporations set outrageously high new medicine launch prices from which all subsequent gouging proceeds. The country’s top health official must count standing up to this corporate abuse a top priority of the job. That is what most Americans want.

In this job interview about returning to public service, Azar backed the pharma corporations’ perspective:

  • Azar said granting HHS Medicare Part D negotiation powers, which the pharmaceutical industry crippled through its lobbying might, would not save money. But a Public Citizen analysis found that Medicare negotiation could save $16 billion per year.

          o Azar papered over ways HHS could leverage its negotiating power, including formularies and fallback pricing, as well as the market signaling and political effects of the government exercising its existing authority to allow generic competition when corporations price gouge consumers, to deliver this conclusion.

  • Azar said that Lilly revenues remained flat even as insulin prices increased. This is not true:

          o For Lilly’s insulin product Humalog (U.S. only revenues, in millions):
              2007       $888
              2012       $1370.9
              2016       $1685.2

          o For Lilly’s insulin product Humalin (U.S. only revenues, in millions):

              2007       $365.2
              2012       $592.1
              2016       $861.8

Azar is well-equipped to rationalize and obscure pharmaceutical corporation responsibility for making medications unaffordable. But the public knows better, and so should the U.S. Senate.

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