American Oversight today sued the Department of Health and Human Services to compel the release of communications between Secretary Alex Azar and the pharmaceutical industry —including Eli Lilly, where Azar worked until 2017.
The administration has failed to provide final responses to several Freedom of Information Act requests, filed by American Oversight in March, that sought records reflecting Azar or his staff having communicated with pharmaceutical industry groups and companies like Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.
The investigation into the pharmaceutical industry’s access at HHS follows similar and ongoing inquiries related to the level of influence conservative health-care and anti-abortion groups have over federal policy. Earlier this month, after obtaining calendars that show a number of meetings with Azar and conservative anti-Affordable Care Act groups, American Oversight requested records related to the secretary’s July meeting with conservative health-care policy leaders.
American Oversight has also filed a FOIA request to HHS for nomination materials and ethics guidelines for members appointed to the Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force. The task force is a collaboration between HHS, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Defense that makes recommendations on policies related to the opioid crisis.
“We need to be sure that Secretary Azar is working for the American people, not the drug companies that will stand to benefit from drug price hikes and limited options,” said American Oversight Executive Director Austin Evers. “All across the Trump cabinet, former industry executives have been busy fulfilling their corporate wish lists at a frightening pace, and it’s important to know exactly how closely Secretary Azar has been working with the pharmaceutical industry.”
The complaint filed today by American Oversight can be found here.