Restore Public Trust: Pharma Insider Alex Azar Complicit in “Broken” Drug Pricing System

Restore Public Trust: Pharma Insider Alex Azar Complicit in “Broken” Drug Pricing System

Former Eli Lilly executive Alex Azar ignored his own responsibility for “utterly broken” system of drug pricing

WASHINGTON — This morning during a speech at the Bipartisan Policy Center, HHS Secretary Alex Azar called drug pricing an “utterly broken system.” Touting a new policy, Azar told stories from patients who cannot afford the steep price increases under his watch as head of HHS.

“Secretary Azar may call the drug pricing system broken now, but as a former pharmaceutical executive, he is complicit in that broken system,” said Lizzy Price, Communications Director of Restore Public Trust. “While he was an executive at Eli Lilly, Azar oversaw high drug prices, including on medication that diabetes and cancer patients depend on. And things have only gotten worse under his watch at HHS as prices on hundreds of drugs have skyrocketed. Americans deserve leadership to drive down drug prices, and a pharmaceutical insider can’t be trusted for the task.”

A recent report from Restore Public Trust exposes the long record of high drug prices during Azar’s tenure at Eli Lilly. As a drug company executive, Azar opposed action to reduce drug prices, ensuring prices stayed high. During his tenure, Eli Lilly raised drug prices repeatedly. Drugs including insulin for diabetes patients soared, resulting in an investigation and class action lawsuit against Eli Lilly for alleged price fixing. Meanwhile, Azar passed the blame onto insurance companies and others for price increases.

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.

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