Health nominee earned millions as a pharmaceutical executive

WASHINGTON (AP) — Newly disclosed financial records show that President Donald Trump’s nominee to become Health and Human Services secretary reaped big earnings during his tenure as a top pharmaceutical executive.

As a top drug industry veteran from 2007 to 2017, former Eli Lilly and Co. executive Alex Azar built a substantial financial portfolio now worth $9.5 million to $20.6 million, and he was paid nearly $2 million in his final year at the company.

Azar was a former general counsel and deputy secretary at HHS during President George W. Bush’s administration. If confirmed, he would replace Tom Price, who resigned under pressure after using private charter flights at taxpayer expense.

In remarks Monday before a Cabinet meeting at the White House, Trump said he was “proud” of Azar’s nomination and urged the Senate to “swiftly confirm” him, citing the nominee just before a discussion of the national opioid epidemic.

Azar oversaw Eli Lilly’s lobbying of the federal government during a sensitive two-year period when the pharmaceutical firm was under investigation by the Justice Department for improperly marketing a medication used for schizophrenia.

From 2007 to 2009, when Azar worked as a senior vice president in charge of corporate affairs and communications, Eli Lilly’s lobbying of federal officials and Congress surged. The firm’s payments for internal and outside lobbying rose from $4.2 million in 2007 to $12.4 million in 2008 and $11.2 million in 2009 as President Barack Obama’s administration steered his health care program into law.