President Trump vowed Monday that his new Health and Human Services secretary would work to bring drug prices "rocketing down."
"He's going to get those prescription drug prices way down as a little bit of an extra. It's going to come rocketing down," Trump promised during the swearing-in ceremony for Alex Azar.
Azar formerly worked as general counsel and deputy secretary under the George W. Bush administration, then worked as a top executive at pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly. Democrats blasted Azar for his pharmaceutical ties during his confirmation hearings, citing examples of climbing drug prices during his tenure. Lilly's bone growth drug Forteo, for instance, rose in price from $1,032 to $2,728.
But Trump treated Azar's involvement with drug companies as an asset to overseeing the effort, which he said they discussed often.
"We have to get the prices of prescription drugs way down and unravel the tangled web of special interests that are driving up the price for medicine and for hurting patients," he said. "I know you can do it. You know the system and you can do it because it's wrong," he continued.
Trump also emphasized Azar's expected role in tackling the opioid epidemic and in rolling back healthcare regulations so that people could "get the affordable, high-quality care they deserve." He lamented that too many people leave the hospital following a procedure and develop an addiction to opioids.
"We are going to be very tough on the drug companies in that regard and very tough on doctors in that regard," Trump said.
Azar called the role a "great honor" and said of the challenges ahead at HHS, "It's going to be tough but we'll do well with it. We will bring down drug prices. I look forward to that mission."
Azar was nominated for the position after the former secretary, Dr. Tom Price, resigned in the fall following reports that he used government-funded jets for travel.