- The Washington Times - Monday, January 29, 2018

Alex Azar was sworn Monday as secretary of the Health and Human Services Department, filling a critical seat in President Trump’s cabinet that for months had been filled by an acting boss.

Mr. Trump immediately tasked Mr. Azar with driving down prescription drug prices, saying other countries “pay a tiny fraction” of Americans fork out for the same pills.

“It’s going to come rocketing down,” Mr. Trump said.

Vice President Mike Pence delivered the oath of office to Mr. Azar, a former pharmaceutical executive who said he looks forward to taking on drug pricing and the deadly opioid epidemic.

“Now it’s time to get to work!” he said.

Mr. Azar’s appointment is a homecoming of sorts. He worked at HHS under President George W. Bush.

Mr. Trump said Mr. Azar served with “tremendous distinction” as general counsel and deputy secretary of the $1-trillion agency, which regulates and approves drugs, combats disease and runs public health programs such as Medicaid and Medicare.

Republicans say Mr. Azar has a firm grasp of how HHS works and that his decade at Eli Lilly, a drug company, will give him an insider’s perspective as the administration tries to inject more competition into the prescription-drug market.

During his confirmation hearing, Mr. Azar said he would try to speed generic drugs to the market and make sure companies don’t game the patent system to unfairly shut out competitors, shunning the type of direct government intervention that liberal Democrats would prefer.

Mr. Azar will be Mr. Trump’s second permanent HHS secretary. His first pick, former Rep. Tom Price, resigned last fall amid questions about his pricey business travel.

The Senate confirmed Mr. Azar last week, 55-43.

Six Senate Democrats vote to approve Mr. Azar, brushing aside liberal complaints that his history of Obamacare criticism and work for a drugmaker made him the wrong man to implement the 2010 law or tamp down on prescription prices.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky was the only Republican to vote “no.”

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