After taking on pharma M&A, ‘pay-for-delay’ and Gilead’s remdesivir pricing, California AG will lead HHS — reports

President-elect Joe Biden is reportedly tapping California’s Attorney General, a former 12-term congressman and vocal advocate of improved healthcare access, to replace Alex Azar as the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Xavier Becerra, 62, is a surprise choice, the New York Times reported, as he’s perhaps better known for other issues like criminal justice and immigration. But recently he’s also spearheaded the legal effort to defend the Affordable Care Act, leading a coalition of 20 states and DC to argue in front of the Supreme Court.

“Every nation around the world has had to confront the devastating impact of the global pandemic,” Becerra said in a statement on the eve of oral arguments last month. “The United States, under President Trump’s watch, continues to set records going in the wrong direction. Millions infected, hundreds of thousands dead.”

But it’s not just the ACA. As Attorney General, he’s taken on pharma companies for “pay-for-delay agreements” as well as urged the federal government to use march-in rights and allow third-party manufacturers to make remdesivir, calling the $3,200 price Gilead had set “outrageous and unconscionable.”

Earlier this year, Becerra also took issue with the FTC’s approval of AbbVie’s $63 billion acquisition of Allergan, raising concerns that the divestitures weren’t enough to address antitrust issues.

Before that, when he represented Los Angeles in Washington, he has served on the health subcommittee as a member of the Ways and Means Committee.

After the Times reported his appointment, which is expected to be formally announced Monday or Tuesday, Politico, NBC, the Hill and other outlets also confirmed the news.