HHS nominee Alex Azar condemns 'patent gaming,' critics cry hypocrisy

During Alex Azar's tenure in multiple leadership roles at Eli Lilly, the drug company extended the patent for Cialis by testing the best-selling erectile dysfunction drug on children, according to Politico.

Here are four things to know.

1. Eli Lilly conducted pediatric clinical trials to see whether Cialis could treat children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The clinical trial failed, but allowed Eli Lilly to extend Cialis' patent for six months via a law that promotes pediatric research.

2. Mr. Azar condemned these types of practices at a November meeting with the Senate HELP panel. "We have to fight gaming in the system of patents and exclusivity by drug companies," he said, according to Politico. "I have always been an opponent of abuse and gaming of the patent systems by drug companies."

3. Supporters believe Mr. Azar is well suited to lead HHS and tackle high drug prices, as he has extensive experience in the drug industry. However, some critics believe this experience should disqualify him from serving as HHS secretary, citing his involvement in Eli Lilly's patent-gaming actions.

"[He] gamed the patent system to protect Eli Lilly's taxpayer-funded profits under the guise of helping sick kids," Tyson Brody, research and investigations director of the left-leaning advocacy group Democracy Forward, told Politico.

4. HHS officials overseeing communication for Mr. Azar declined Politico's request for comment. His confirmation hearing with the Senate Finance Committee will occur Thursday. The Senate is expected to vote on his nomination later this month.

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