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Azar said there are problems with drug prices "across the entire channel." Photo: Carolyn Kaster / AP

Alex Azar, President Trump's nominee for Health and Human Services secretary, came out of the gate Wednesday with a statement that was obvious but needed to try to win over critics of his drug industry experience: "Drug prices are too high." Here's what he told the Senate HELP Committee during his hearing.

  • The drug pricing system is "not working for patients that pay out of pocket," said Azar, who used to work at drug giant Eli Lilly & Co. That references problems with high deductibles and insurance plans, but doesn't get at how drug companies actually set prices or address the overall high costs of the health care system.
  • Azar said there are problems with drug prices "across the entire channel." That statement indirectly points fingers toward pharmacy benefit managers, health insurers and drug distributors — and is a common refrain from the pharmaceutical industry.
  • Azar wants to "fight gaming" in the drug patent system, where pharmaceutical companies like Eli Lilly file multiple patents on the same drug to extend exclusive monopoly pricing.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who released a lengthy list of questions before the hearing, charged that Azar's background "reads like a how-to manual from profiting from government service."
  • She asked if Azar's former boss, retired Eli Lilly CEO John Lechleiter, should have been held personally accountable for the company's fraudulent marketing of the antipsychotic drug Zyprexa, but Azar did not directly answer.
  • Sen. Rand Paul pressed Azar on his industry ties and encouraged him to support a policy of importing drugs safely from other countries, which Azar has publicly opposed.
  • Democratic senators were concerned Azar would continue the Trump administration's "sabotage" of the Affordable Care Act. Azar said he would "faithfully implement" the ACA "if it remains."
  • On growing health care costs: "Premiums have been skyrocketing year after year." That's true in the ACA's individual insurance markets, but not for people who get insurance through their jobs.
  • Azar used to work at HHS under President George W. Bush and tried to highlight his public experience and impartiality. "This is returning home."

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Education: Schools face an uphill battle to reopen during the pandemic.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong puts tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge — Pfizer to supply 40 million vaccine doses to lower-income countries — Brazil begins distributing AstraZeneca vaccine.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

DOJ: Capitol rioter threatened to "assassinate" Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Supporters of former President Trump storm the U.S. Captiol on Jan. 6. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A Texas man who has been charged with storming the U.S. Capitol in the deadly Jan. 6 siege posted death threats against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the Department of Justice said.

The big picture: Garret Miller faces five charges in connection to the riot by supporters of former President Trump, including violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and making threats. According to court documents, Miller posted violent threats online the day of the siege, including tweeting “Assassinate AOC.”

Schumer calls for IG probe into alleged plan by Trump, DOJ lawyer to oust acting AG

Jeffrey Clark speaks next to Deputy US Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen at a news conference in October. Photo: Yuri Gripas/AFP via Getty Images.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Saturday called for the Justice Department inspector general to investigate an alleged plan by former President Trump and a DOJ lawyer to remove the acting attorney general and replace him with someone more willing to investigate unfounded claims of election fraud.

Driving the news: The New York Times first reported Friday that the lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, allegedly devised "ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. [Jeffrey] Rosen had refused the president’s entreaties to carry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark."

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