Tom Price Confirmed as HHS Chief
Tom Price Confirmed as Donald Trump’s Health Chief, But Stock Deals Still Raise Questions
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate confirmed former Rep. Tom Price, a Georgia Republican and avowed opponent to the Affordable Care Act, as the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Price was confirmed in strict party-line vote, 52 to 47, late Thursday night. Democrats opposed Price due to his longtime opposition to the Affordable Care Act, healthcare legislation that Price and President Donald Trump have called to be repealed.
Price, is an orthopedic surgeon, owns stock in multiple healthcare and pharmaceutical companies. While the majority of his holdings have not been called into question, some Democrats on Capitol Hill raised questions over his holdings in Australian company, Innate Immunotherapeutics. During hearings, Democrats questioned whether or not Price received insider information before purchasing shares. They also questioned his holdings in Zimmer Biomet, a medical device company that “benefitted from a bill he sponsored and voted on,” Xconomy reported this morning.
Investigators looked into whether or not members of that committee were privy to inside information that could benefit them financially on stock deals. Price was never under investigation himself, but Kaiser Health News reported ethics experts who said his trades made during the investigation “shows he was unconcerned about financial investments that could create an appearance of impropriety.”
In a Jan. 11 letter sent to the ethics office in HHS, he said will sell off his stocks within 90 days of confirmation in order to avoid any conflicts of interest. Among his investments are several biotech and pharma companies, including Amgen (AMGN), Athena Health, Biogen (BIIB), Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY), Eli Lilly (LLY), Innate Immunotherapies, Jazz Pharmaceuticals (JAZZ), McKesson Corp. (MCK), Pfizer (PFE) and Thermo Fisher Scientific (TMO). In his letter, Price also said that during his tenure as Secretary of Health and Human Services, neither he nor any member of his family, will not acquire interest in businesses listed on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s prohibited holdings list. He also said he will not become involved directly or indirectly with industries in the pharmaceutical world, development of veterinary products, healthcare management or delivery companies or companies involved with the development of food or beverages.
With Price now confirmed, the pharma and biotech industries are waiting to see who President Donald Trump will appoint as commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Trump has signaled that he is looking at a candidate who could disrupt the federal agency as he plans to streamline drug approvals to make them faster.