Corporate Connections: Eli Lilly & Co.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar was the president of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Co.’s U.S. subsidiary, Lilly USA. From 2007 to 2017, he built a personal financial portfolio worth between $9.5 and $20.6 million.In his final year there, Azar made nearly $2 million.
Azar was in charge of setting prices on a wide array of Eli Lilly and Co. pharmaceutical products. In testimony before the Senate Finance committee he was very clear to say that he has never lowered the price of a prescription drug.
Before serving at Lilly, Azar was general counsel and then Deputy Secretary at Health and Human Services during the George W. Bush administration.
- During Azar’s presidency at Lilly USA, from 2012 to 2017, the price of insulin spiked from $123 per vial to $255 per vial.
- Eli Lilly has been accused in a class action lawsuit of exploiting the drug pricing system to ensure a higher profit for insulin, with some of the activity taking place under Azar’s watch.
- The government of Mexico fined the company, alleging collusion related to insulin prices.
- In 2009, Lilly USA settled criminal and civil federal allegations that it had been marketing schizophrenia drug Zyprexa off label. The company pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and paid $1.4 billion in fines. As the general counsel for Health and Human Services from 2001-2005, Azar oversaw the FDA offices responsible for the investigation which led to these charges, yet he began working for the Lilly in 2007.
- Eli Lilly & Co. tested blockbuster erectile dysfunction drug Cialis on children as a potential treatment for a muscular dystrophy condition under a process that allows pharmaceutical companies to extend their monopolies by six months if there is a potential benefit to kids. But research suggests these pediatric extensions give prescription drug corporations an incentive to study highly profitable drugs with large adult markets rather than focus on those that are most promising to for children.