Alex Azar was sworn in on Monday as the new secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
During a swear-in ceremony at the White House for Azar, President Donald Trump said that the new HHS head will lead the country’s effort to “confront the national emergency of addiction and death due to opioids.”
Azar, whose appointment was announced by the president over Twitter in November, was confirmed to his new post by the Senate last week in a 55-43 vote, Xinhua reported.
He is filling the vacancy left by former secretary Tom Price, who resigned last fall over his extensive use of taxpayer-funded charter flights.
Azar, 50, had previously served as general counsel and then as deputy secretary of the HHS in the George W. Bush administration. He had until early last year served as president of global pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly USA.
During his confirmation hearing in early January, Azar said that dealing with high drug prices would be a priority, along with making health care more affordable, improving medicare through technology and tackling the opioid epidemic.
The HHS is one of the largest non-defense agencies in the federal government, with an annual budget of over $1 trillion and nearly 80,000 full-time employees.