Mark Cuban Says he Has the Prescription for Excessive, Opaque Drug Pricing

Mark Cuban Says he Has the Prescription for Excessive, Opaque Drug Pricing

Cuban, an investor on “Shark Tank” and proprietor of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, has launched a namesake on-line pharmacy that claims it is going to have clear pricing and can bypass pharmacy profit managers.

A brand new on-line pharmacy based by Mark Cuban, billionaire investor and Dallas Mavericks proprietor, hopes to be a slam dunk in the case of drawing in customers who’re looking for a substitute for paying excessive costs for important medicine. The Mark Cuban Value Plus Drug Firm launched in January and affords what it claims are the bottom costs accessible on 100 generic medicine.

With this on-line pharmacy, “customers can get entry to routine medicine at decrease prices, forcing different organizations within the trade to satisfy or beat it,” says Amel Hammad, managing director and chief of the healthcare trade observe of Riveron Consulting.

A serious a part of Cuban’s pharmacy pitch is that will probably be clear about pricing. The brand new pharmacy says it units costs primarily based on the fee to fabricate the drug, plus a 15% markup for every drug it dispenses, and a $3 cost for labor. The buyer pays for transport. Within the press launch saying the enterprise, Cuban’s on-line pharmacy held up Gleevec (imatinib), a most cancers drug, for instance, stating that Gleevec retails for $9,657 per 30 days, however the generic model might be bought by means of the brand new on-line pharmacy for simply $47.

Cuban’s on-line pharmacy can also be promising good offers on inexpensive medicine. The corporate’s web site is pricing a 30-day provide of lisinopril, a blood strain treatment, at $3.60. The corporate says, against this, a 30-day provide sells for $24 at retail pharmacies. Nevertheless, that may be a bit deceptive, as a result of GoodRx lists costs which might be lower than half that at a number of retail pharmacies with a worth of
$4 for a 30-day provide.

Cuban’s new firm doesn’t settle for insurance coverage cost, so anybody shopping for medicine from the web pharmacy can be paying out of pocket. However “typically, the identical drug is cheaper than it’s with an insurance coverage copay,” says Lovisa Gustafsson, MBA, vp on the Commonwealth Fund, a basis that focuses on healthcare analysis.

Starvation for decrease costs

Cuban is beginning his pharmacy when there’s widespread discontent with the drug prices. President Joseph R. Biden talked about excessive drug costs in his State of the Union deal with in February. In response to the federal authorities actuaries, expenditures on prescribed drugs topped $348 billion in 2020, which is up 3% from the earlier 12 months. A examine launched this previous 12 months by RAND Company discovered that prescription drug costs in the US have been, on common,
2.56 occasions larger than within the 32 different nations within the examine. For brand-name medicine, U.S. costs averaged 3.44 occasions larger. Nevertheless, generic drug costs within the U.S. have been barely decrease. Generic medicine account for nearly 85% of medicine which might be offered within the U.S. however simply 12% of spending, RAND discovered.

Ballot outcomes launched in September by Gallup confirmed that
18 million People couldn’t afford not less than one among their drugs within the earlier three months. The issue of affordability was particularly critical for these incomes lower than $24,000 per 12 months. Nevertheless, the pricing of medicine within the U.S. is difficult by an internet of rebates and reductions that separate the said worth from the one truly paid. By some accounts, developments in web costs paid by insurers and different payers have been flat and have even dipped in recent times.

Cuban’s on-line pharmacy could also be significantly engaging for individuals who pay out of pocket for his or her prescriptions, which is a gaggle that would come with individuals with out insurance coverage or those that have signed up for a excessive deductible plan, says Stacie Dusetzina, Ph.D., affiliate professor of well being coverage at Vanderbilt College. Nevertheless, “the problem is that they’re considerably restricted in scope,” Dusetzina says, noting that Cuban’s pharmacy is providing solely a restricted number of generic medicine. As well as, Hammad says the brand new on-line pharmacy might assist deal with entry due to the mail-order supply, though mail-order supply is hardly distinctive to Cuban’s new pharmacy.

Slicing out the “bouncers”

The inspiration for Cuban’s pharmacy got here from an e-mail Alex Oshmyansky, M.D., Ph.D., despatched to Cuban, who is maybe greatest identified for being one of many traders on the tv present, “Shark Tank.” Oshmyansky, a radiologist who earned his medical diploma from Duke College and educated at Harvard College and Johns Hopkins, was looking for funding in his firm, Osh’s Inexpensive Prescription drugs, in response to Texas Month-to-month. Oshmyansky had arrange the corporate to buy generic medicine instantly from producers and promote them to pharmacies, thereby slicing out the pharmacy profit managers (PBMs).

In an interview with NPR, Cuban stated he requested Oshmyansky, who now serves as CEO of Cuban’s on-line pharmacy, “Can we reduce out the inefficiencies?” Cuban’s firm has created its personal PBM to work with the producers, and later this 12 months, the corporate is about to open a producing facility in Dallas.

On NPR, Cuban likened PBMs to “bouncers at a membership,” saying they’re “controlling entry to all the massive insurers. And if you’d like this insurance coverage firm to promote your drug, you’ve acquired to pay the duvet cost,” which comes within the type of rebates paid by drugmakers. When the Wall Avenue Journal reported on Cuban’s new enterprise in October 2021, months earlier than the official announcement, the newspaper
charaterized the enterprise as a PBM.

Cuban’s operation has “discovered a strategy to deal with ache factors round prescribed drugs by going on to the producers to keep away from the markup created by the healthcare trade whereas slicing out the middlemen of third-party insurance coverage and pharmacies,” Hammad says.

Ventures comparable to Cuban’s are a “pushback towards middlemen,” Gustafsson says. “(It is going to be) attention-grabbing to see how profitable they’re,” Gustafsson says, particularly as they scale up their choices over time.

As a result of the brand new pharmacy doesn’t take insurance coverage and solely affords a subset of generic medicine, Dusetzina says she’s uncertain of how disruptive this is able to be to a PBM.

Different disrupters

Cuban’s enterprise is “one in a broader development of recent entrants to the pharmaceutical provide chain,” Gustafsson says. Amazon additionally has an internet pharmacy, she notes. Costs are posted on the web site and funds from most main insurers are accepted. As well as, Amazon Prime members get additional financial savings. Prime members save as much as 80% on generic drugs and 40% on model names when paying with out insurance coverage, in response to the web site.

Gustafsson additionally mentions Civica Rx, a nonprofit drug producer that produces generics for hospitals and well being programs. In early March, Civica introduced that it plans to fabricate and distribute low-cost insulin. Customers may use GoodRx, which tracks drug costs and affords reductions and coupons. “GoodRx has finished so much to be a family title,” Dusetzina says.

Additionally within the wings is EQRx, an organization based two years in the past that goals to provide medicine which might be similar to current drugs and might be dropped at market faster and fewer expensively than medicine developed by different drugmakers.

Gustafsson says the brand new entrants within the drug provide chain might finally have an effect on PBMs if the businesses wind up negotiating on behalf of fewer individuals.

“Innovators in healthcare perceive the ache factors customers are encountering,” Hammad says. “They acknowledge many individuals are keen to take the private-pay strategy, and never make the most of insurance coverage or any third-party payer, to keep away from the executive burden.”

Susan Ladika is an impartial journalist in Tampa, Florida, who covers enterprise and healthcare.