Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has been busy working on the Trump administration’s goal of containing drug costs, but as turmoil hits the Justice Department, the president is mulling the former Eli Lilly executive for attorney general, according to The Wall Street Journal.
An appointment to succeed Attorney General Jeff Sessions is contingent on Sessions stepping down, according to the newspaper. And though he's on a short list, Azar isn’t interested in the post, the WSJ reports, citing a person “familiar with his thinking.” Other candidates include Transportation Department General Counsel Steven Bradbury and Bill Barr, an attorney general under former President George H. W. Bush. All of the potential candidates declined to comment or couldn't be reached, the WSJ reports.
Azar has been serving as secretary for HHS since early this year after Tom Price resigned in a travel scandal. As HHS chief, Azar has been crucial in the Trump administration’s work to control drug costs; in May, President Donald Trump, Azar and others presented the administration's plan on the issue.
The administration's pricing blueprint calls for more competition and negotiation in the pharmaceutical market, plus incentives to lower list prices and out-of-pocket costs. Before taking on the HHS secretary job, Azar served as president of Eli Lilly’s U.S. subsidiary and in the HHS as general counsel and deputy secretary during the George W. Bush presidency.
Trump has regularly criticized Sessions’ performance as attorney general. The attorney general doesn't currently intend to leave, the WSJ reports, but feels he may be asked to resign.
As HHS secretary, Azar has made several headlines in the pharma industry. He’s been openly discussing removing rebates in what would be a major shift for the industry, and he's pushing for drug prices in TV ads. During the nomination process, critics said Azar was too close to the pharmaceutical industry to effectively regulate drug prices. Sen. Bernie Sanders, for one, said the “last thing” the government should do is put a pharma executive at the top of HHS.