President Donald Trump is leaning toward a former Eli Lilly and Co. executive to head the powerful Department of Health and Human Services Administration, according to reports from Washington, D.C.
Alex Azar—who served as Lilly USA president for five years until January—would replace Tom Price, a Georgia Republican who resigned the post last month after Politico reported that he spent more than $1 million in taxpayer funds on private planes for official travel.
Azar also worked in corporate communications and managed health care positions at Lilly from 2007 through 2011 before leaving to found Indianapolis-based Seraphim Strategies, a biopharmaceutical consulting firm.
Before joining Lilly, Azar served as the general counsel and deputy secretary of HHS under President George Bush.
Several national media organizations—including Politico and The Washington Post—quoted unnamed sources in reporting that Azar is the leading candidate for the top position at HHS.
If Trump moves forward with the pick, it could be a surprise for a president who has been highly critical of pharmaceutical companies and drug prices. But Vice President Mike Pence, the former Indiana governor, knows Azar and has been influential in packing the administration with Hoosiers.
Trump appointed Seema Verma, founder of Indianapolis-based health policy consulting firm SVC Inc. and an architect of the Healthy Indiana Plan, to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, an agency within HHS.
Shortly after Price resigned, Verma was thought to be a possible pick for the HHS job but a source told The Washington Post she is no longer in the running for the job.
Trump also appointed former Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Jerome Adams, an anesthesiologist, to serve as surgeon general. Pence had appointed Adams to his state post.