As Azar Pays Lip Service to the Cost of Pharmaceuticals in America, Drug Company Profits Continue to Soar

Drug Company AbbVie’s $5 Billion Stock Buyback Announced Last Week Latest Example of Pharmaceutical Companies Going Unchecked Under Azar’s Watch

In New Report, Restore Public Trust Exposes Azar’s Long History of Raising Drug Prices at Eli Lilly

WASHINGTON — Former pharmaceutical executive and Trump HHS Secretary Alex Azar continues to allow drug companies to keep prescription drug prices high, despite the Trump administration’s promises to get drug prices under control. Pharmaceutical giant AbbVie’s recent announcement of a $5 billion stock buyback authorization, bringing their total stock repurchase to $15 billion since the Republican tax overhaul, is the latest evidence of this administration’s failure.

Just last month Pfizer announced price hikes on 41 drugs. This week, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden also asked Pfizer to justify its price increase of the nerve pain drug Lyrica, a prescription medicine that cost $150 in 2005 compared to more than $650 today.

“HHS Secretary Alex Azar is a pharmaceutical industry insider who oversaw dramatic drug price increases during his time at Eli Lilly,” said Caroline Ciccone, Executive Director of Restore Public Trust. “Azar leading the Trump administration’s effort to lower drug prices doesn’t pass the laugh test. His history in the drug industry should be thoroughly scrutinized. How can he be trusted to lower drug prices given his record? AbbVie’s announcement last week that it has authorized a $5 billion stock buyback shows that Azar is allowing the actions of his friends in the pharmaceutical industry to go unchecked.”

A recent report from Restore Public Trust exposes the long record of high drug prices during Azar’s tenure at Eli Lilly, including for diabetes and cancer patients. Prior to his appointment, Azar even doubted whether the Trump administration would follow through on actions to check the power of pharmaceutical powerhouses and lower drug costs; turns out Azar was right.

For a decade before he resigned to become the head of HHS, Azar rose through the ranks of Eli Lilly USA, becoming president of the company’s largest division in 2012. As a drug company executive, Azar opposed action to reduce drug prices and defended patents, ensuring prices stayed high. During his tenure, Eli Lilly raised drug prices repeatedly. Drugs including insulin for diabetes patients skyrocketed, resulting in an investigation and class action lawsuit against Eli Lilly for price fixing. Meanwhile, Azar blamed insurance companies and others for price increases, avoiding responsibility.

Findings from the report include:

  • Over a seven-year period that included Azar’s tenure, three Eli Lilly drugs increased in price by 200-400%.
  • In 2016, Eli Lilly reported to investors that it raised prices on all its drugs by an average of 14 percent across the board. In 2015, prices rose by 16.3% across the board. In 2014, prices rose by 11.8% across the board. In 2013, prices rose by 15% across the board. In 2012, prices increased by 12.8% across the board.
  • Forteo, a drug for osteoporosis, rose by 68% between 2012 and 2015 alone. It was the single highest retail price increase for a specialty drug of its kind according to the AARP.
  • Under Azar, Eli Lilly released a new lung cancer drug that would prolong the life of patients with terminal cancer. It cost $10,000 a month. Another cancer drug, Cryamza, cost $50,000 per treatment course. Yet another drug for colorectal cancer costs $30,000 for a seven-week course of therapy.
  • During the 10-year period that Azar worked at the company, it doubled the cost of Cymbalta, a drug for depression.
  • During Azar’s tenure, Eli Lilly increased the cost of Diabetes medication Humalog by 345%.
  • Eli Lilly increased the price of insulin by 450% above inflation while Azar was at the company.


Restore Public Trust is a non-partisan public interest group focused on exposing corruption and malfeasance at the highest levels of government. We strive to educate the public and policymakers on these important issues. We are a critical resource for elected officials investigating public corruption; Americans looking for more information about what their government is or isn’t doing to advocate on their behalf; and journalists examining the alleged malfeasance of government officials.

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