On Wednesday, the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Alex Azar to be Secretary of Health and Human Services, which oversees the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
Azar is the current poster child for #BadPharma behavior, leveraging the revolving door between government and the corporate world to serve his best interests and game the system, which he repeatedly cited as the problem although his track record of taking advantage of a broken system is clear. The panel of Senators cited a long list of atrocities from raising prices while at a major pharmaceutical company to numerous examples of decision-making in the best interests of #BigPharma as opposed to patients.
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) cut to the chase by highlighting importation as a solution to the challenge of high drug prices, calling out the false claims of safety issues stating that they are ‘frankly, not true’ but rather the real issue is that ‘Big Pharma is manipulating the system to keep profits high.’
Senator Paul went further by quoting the President during the hearing, “Allowing consumers access to imported safe and dependable drugs from overseas will bring more options to consumers.”
He asked Azar to propose a plan for ensuring safety through importation and steps to implement or else, consequently, he would not be able to support Azar’s nomination.
Although other senators raised importation, including Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Azar avoided direct questioning on the topic. Yet it was not the only issue that he refused to comment on after being repeatedly asked questions related to the role and responsibility #BigPharma in the high pricing of medications. Rather, he reverted to the all-too-familiar #BigPharma playbook of blaming others or generally pointing to a broken system.
While it is true that the system is broken, there will be no relief for consumers until #BigPharma takes responsibility for its role in fracturing the system and manipulating the government and consumers to ensure that the system remains broken and profits are maximized.
It is clear from the hearing that a new leader has emerged to ensure that prices stay high and #BigPharma profits are protected. Move over, pharma bro – there is a new sheriff in town.
By most accounts, Azar’s confirmation for HHS Secretary is a foregone conclusion. Outlook is not good for American consumers who struggle to access safe and affordable prescription medications. The revolving door continues to revolve.
The full hearing can be accessed here.