New Data: Under Trump-Azar, Big Pharma Brings in Billions While Americans Suffocate from High Rx Costs

Despite Azar’s Promises, Majority of Q1 Health Care Industry Profits Went to Big Pharma

WASHINGTON — New data released today by Axios show drugmakers’ bring in billions as the Trump administration, led by Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, failed to take meaningful action to reduce prescription drug costs. Despite their promises to cut prescription drug prices for Americans, nine of the top 10 most profitable health care companies during Q1 were pharmaceutical manufacturers, and the most profitable was Azar’s former employer, Eli Lilly.

“Despite Azar’s and Trump’s promises to rein in prescription drug costs, big pharma is profiting off the backs of consumers. It’s no surprise that Secretary Azar, whose former employer’s profits have skyrocketed, has failed to check the power of the pharma industry,” said Lizzy Price, spokesperson for Restore Public Trust. “This data proves that not only is the Trump administration failing on their promises, but they’re doing the opposite – benefiting big pharma over Americans struggling to pay for lifesaving medications. The health and lives of vulnerable Americans are at stake and Azar is dropping the ball.”

Despite political and public outrage over the rising costs of drug prices, the Trump administration appointed Azar to head HHS and lead the charge to reduce prescription drug prices. Azar himself questioned the Trump administration’s ability to lower drug prices before he was tapped to carry out its plan.

What’s more, during his tenure as an executive at Eli Lilly, the company increased its prices of lifesaving drugs like insulin at an appalling rate. The Trump administration claims to care about checking the power of the pharmaceutical industry but drugmakers continue to profit. The new data confirms the administration’s talk is cheap:

  • A majority of the health care industry’s profits in the first three months of 2019 went to the top 10 companies, and nine of those 10 companies were pharmaceutical manufacturers.
  • 12 of the most profitable drug companies in Q1 collectively reported more than $29 billion in profits.
  • A dozen companies had net profit margins above 30% in the first quarter, nine of which were pharma firms.
  • Alexion Pharmaceuticals’ net profit margin was 52%, one of the highest margins in the industry after accounting for odd, one-time items.

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 reducing drug prices and defended patents, helping to ensure prices stayed high. During Azar’s tenure, Eli Lilly hiked prices on patients repeatedly. Some of the most egregious price hikes include that Eli Lilly doubled the cost of depression drug Cymbalta, and increased the price of insulin by 450% above inflation all while Azar was at the company. Restore Public Trust is working to expose Azar’s history and hold him accountable to the millions of Americans HHS serves.


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