Trump charges new HHS Sec. to combat opioid crisis, drug prices

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Updated Jan 29, 2018 12:05 PM EST

President Trump has charged the newest Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to help combat the impacts of the nation’s opioid epidemic and rising prescription drug costs crippling the United States at a White House ceremony on Monday. 

“He will help lead our efforts to confront the national emergency of addiction and death due to opioids and I think we’re going to be very tough on the drug companies in that regard and tough on doctors in that regard, because what’s going on is pretty incredible,” said Mr. Trump. 

The president added that HHS needs to “unravel the tangled web of special interests that are driving prices up for medicine and for really hurting patients.”

“Alex, I know there is no one more capable, qualified and committed than you in overcoming these challenges, so important, and I will say this, prescription drug prices is going to be one of the big things and whenever I speak to Alex, I speak to him about that prior to anything else, and I know you can do it, you know the system and you can do it because it’s wrong,” Mr. Trump said.

Azar was formally sworn-in at the White House where Vice President Mike Pence administered the oath of office. Azar was confirmed to his new position by the Senate last week in a 55-43 vote. 

Mr. Trump announced Azar would be the new HHS chief over Twitter in November, writing that Azar “will be a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices!”

This wouldn’t be Azar’s first stint with the Health and Human Services Department, having previously served as general counsel and later as deputy secretary of HHS in President George W. Bush’s administration. 

After his stint in the Bush administration, Azar was president of Eli Lilly USA, a global pharmaceutical company. He is filling the vacancy left by former secretary Tom Price, who resigned during several probes into his government travel.  

On Monday, Mr. Trump said that Azar is taking the helm of HHS which he has already served with “tremendous distinction,” calling him an “incredible public servant” in his previous roles at the Department. 

The president also offered reporters at the White House ceremony a preview to his upcoming State of the Union speech which he is set to deliver Tuesday night. 

“I hope it’s going to be good, we worked on it hard,” said Mr. Trump of his address, calling it a “big” and  “important” speech that covers “a lot of territory” including the administration’s success in overhauling the nation’s tax code as well as immigration. 

“We’re going to get something done. We hope it’s going to  be bipartisan because the Republicans really don’t have the votes to get it done in any other way so it has to  be bipartisan, but hopefully the Democrats will join us – or, enough of them, will join us so we can really do something great for DACA and for immigration in general,” he added.

 

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