Prescriptions Too Costly? Mark Cuban’s Online Pharmacy Has Saved Patients $1,000 a Month
The Inflation Reduction Act, passed last week, aims to tackle the high costs of prescription drugs with annual caps and government price setting, perhaps providing some hope for those on fixed incomes who rely on Medicare coverage.
But while those reforms may take years to enact (the plan won’t be fully rolled out until 2025, per AARP), there are some other developments taking shape that are helping consumers achieve lower costs for much-needed medicine — particularly important at a time when 18 million Americans say they can’t afford to pay for necessary prescriptions, per a 2021 Gallup Poll.
One of the most talked-about new options is Cost Plus Drugs, an online pharmacy startup launched in January by entrepreneur and “Shark Tank” TV personality Mark Cuban. As noted by CNBC, the virtual shop offers more than 800 generic drugs with steep discounts, and the price is the same whether you have health insurance or are uninsured.
A company press release notes that a supply of the drug Imatinib, which helps fight leukemia, is only $47 per month at Cost Plus Drugs. At a normal pharmacy its retail price is $9,657 for the same supply. And mesalamine, a generic used to treat ulcerative colitis, is just $32.40 per month — compared to $940 regularly.
An OB-GYN from the Chicago area recently spoke to Fortune about how much one of her patients was able to save getting her medicines filled through Cost Plus Drugs. When noticing the patient was skipping out on her two blood pressure medications (and one for high cholesterol, as well as only frequently taking her diabetes remedies) due to having to pay out of pocket, Dr. Kishawi recommended the online pharmacy.
She told Fortune that the cost was just $100 a month for all of this patient’s prescriptions, compared to the $1,000-1,200 a month that the patient had been paying before.
How Does Cost Plus Drugs Manage Low Prices on Generic Drugs?
The way Cost Plus Drugs works is by cutting out the middleman. By working directly with the manufacturer, Cost Plus Drugs avoids the complicated web of pharmacy benefit managers and insurance industry workers that promote significant markups and profits, Fortune detailed.
Instead, Cost Plus Drugs is able to keep costs down by taking a 15% margin, a nominal $3 pharmacist fee and $5 for shipping. The site partners with secure e-commerce provider Truepill for transactions, per the press release.
“The markup on potentially lifesaving drugs that people depend on is a problem that can’t be ignored. It is imperative that we take action and help expand access to these medications for those who need them most,” said said Alex Oshmyansky, CEO of Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company (MCCPDC), in a statement provided in the release.
Doctors Speak Out in Support of Low-Cost Online Pharmacy
Several doctors are taking heed and promoting Mark Cuban’s venture. Fortune spoke to several physicians who are now recommending it to their patients. However, critics are also in evidence — calling on the platform to increase the availability of hundreds of other necessary prescriptions not currently on offer.
There’s also the issue that the online pharmacy isn’t able to offer many new brand-name medications. In the U.S., when a new drug comes to market, the maker receives a patent that can last up to 20 years. Only after said patent expires are generics allowed to be developed, CNBC noted.
Such a monopoly on new medication has led to huge price tags, often to the detriment of patients who may need the latest options in life-saving treatments. However, Cuban told CNBC he and his team are working on the brand-new drug issue and hope to have a solution in the near future.
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