Doctor Says Mark Cuban’s Online Pharmacy Saved Patient Over $1,000 A Month On Prescriptions

Deena Kishawi, a resident OB-GYN physician in Chicago, was reviewing the medications of one of her patients when she discovered a big problem.

The patient was not taking two of her blood pressure medications or her high cholesterol medications, and she was only taking her diabetes medications occasionally, all because the prescriptions were too expensive.

“She was kind of taking them as needed, which isn’t really how drugs are supposed to work,” Kishawi said. Fortune. “But she took it that way because she had to try to keep a stash for as long as possible.”

The patient was unable to afford health insurance because she was unemployed and her health insurance claim was pending, so she had to pay for her medication out of her own pocket.

Kishawi thought of Cost Plus Drugs, an online pharmacy that promises to significantly reduce drug costs for consumers. It sells generic drugs at a flat 15% markup above its cost, plus an additional $3 and $5 pharmacy fee for shipping.

“It came out to less than $100,” Kishawi said of the patient’s monthly bill. “While before she was paying $1,000 to $1,200 a month, if she actually got it every month.”

The Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company, funded by a tech billionaire and shark tank Judge Mark Cuban, created in January. Since then, it has gained attention for its low prices compared to traditional pharmacies, where drugs can cost significantly more for those who are uninsured or on high-deductible plans.

Drug prices in the United States are exorbitant compared to virtually all other developed countries. Unlike many other countries, the US government does not regulate or negotiate prescription drug prices set by pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers.

For years, Democrats have tried to pass legislation that would allow Medicare to negotiate directly with manufacturers, as Cost Plus Drugs does, to lower prices for seniors. In the past week, these lawmakers took a big step forward when the US House and Senate passed the Cut Inflation Act. This would allow Medicare to negotiate prices for a limited number of drugs and would also limit drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries to $2,000 per year.

But the legislation did not go as far as some had hoped. For example, a provision that would have capped insulin costs at $35 per month for private insurance customers was removed before the Senate vote.

Cost Plus Drugs has been touted as a model for saving money on prescriptions. In June, a study found that Medicare’s drug program could have saved up to $3.6 billion, 37% of its $9.6 billion budget, on 89 different generic drugs in 2020 if it bought them at online pharmacy prices.

As a direct-to-consumer company, Cost Plus cuts out the middlemen: pharmacy benefit managers who negotiate prices with drug manufacturers on behalf of health insurance companies, employers and others. This way, he says, he is able to avoid huge markups and provide drugs that better reflect manufacturers’ true prices.

“There are many bad actors in the pharmaceutical supply chain that are preventing patients from getting affordable drugs,” said Alex Oshmyansky, CEO of Cost Plus Drugs. said in a press release. “The only way to guarantee affordable prices is to integrate vertically.”

Cost Plus Drugs is not necessarily for everyone. For example, Kishawi, the physician, said she found that older patients were less enthusiastic about the service because they were not comfortable using credit cards in online and with the online prescription refill system. Instead, they prefer to get their medications through their usual pharmacy.

Additionally, Cost Plus medications has only a limited selection of drugs and lacks branded drugs, leading some health experts to say more needs to be done to bring down the price of pharmaceuticals.

“While I support the company, what they are doing is not addressing the big elephant in the room,” said Gabriel Levitt, president of PharmacyChecker, an online service that provides US consumers with drug prices. CNBC do it. “These are really brand-name drugs that go up in price every year and force millions of Americans to cut back on their drug use or take none at all.”

Cost Plus Drugs is not the first to attempt to provide more affordable drugs. GoodRx, founded in 2011, is an online platform that offers coupons for insured and uninsured people to use when buying prescription drugs at pharmacies across the United States. And Civica Rx, a non-profit organization established in 2018, provides generic drugs to hospitals at a more affordable price. prices by negotiating directly with suppliers.

The medicine trade

Kishawi complained that the high cost of drugs is a barrier to proper treatment for Americans and that they have poorer outcomes because of it. Pharmaceutical companies and hospital systems, she said, “really don’t eliminate costs for patients when they can.”

Even for patients who get Medicare, Kishawi said she sometimes recommends Cost Plus drugs for them. Medicare, she said, doesn’t necessarily cover the cost of every drug, unless those covered pay extra for prescription drug insurance.

Rodrigo Muñoz, a North Carolina-based OB-GYN, recently used Cost Plus Drugs for the first time with a patient. He said Fortune it helped the patient afford a new drug – he couldn’t say more for confidentiality reasons – that he had wanted to prescribe for some time.

However, Muñoz wants Cost Plus Drugs to offer a bigger selection. He recently posted a tweet to Cuban and Cost Plus Drugs asking for estrogen products to be added to the service, but has yet to receive a response.

Cuban spoke out against the lack of public information on drug prices. Ask by Fortune On social media, while surprised that doctors are helping patients use his online pharmacy, he said the attention given to Cost Plus Drugs was deserved.

“It’s not a surprise at all,” Cuban said. Fortune. “When you add transparency to an opaque industry, you get stories like these.”

He did not respond to additional questions, nor did the company respond to The wealth questions about the company’s revenue or the number of customers it has served since its inception.

Although he finds Cost Plus Drugs helpful, Muñoz said it’s not a perfect solution due to his limited selection of generic drugs. Additionally, even with its lower costs, the service may still be unaffordable for some patients.

“I wish there were better options and a better way of doing things,” Muñoz said. “Is this the perfect solution for everything? No. Is this my ideal solution? Maybe not.”

He then added: “But working with what we have, I think it will help.”

Taylor Locke contributed to this article.

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