NEWS
June 29, 2022

How Mark Cuban's Online Low-Cost Pharmacy Will Impact The Healthcare Industry

How Mark Cuban's Online Low-Cost Pharmacy Will Impact The Healthcare Industry
Donald Jacobsen
By: Donald Jacobsen MSN, MBA, RN-BC (NI)

Image: Mark Cuban 

Prescription drug costs in the United States have been skyrocketing in recent years. A 2022 Congressional Budget Office report found that the cost of prescription drugs ballooned from $140 in 1980 to over $1,000 per person in 2018. Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks and regular investor on Shark Tank, has opened a new online pharmacy, Cost Plus Drugs, to fight rising drug costs.

The mission of Cuban's pharmacy, Cost Plus Drugs, is to,

  • Reduce the cost of drugs

  • Increase drug price transparency

  • "Remove the middleman" from the prescription buying process

This article will explore what that means for insurance companies, doctors, and patients. We'll also discuss how Cost Plug Drugs works, typical drug costs, and the pros and cons of using this new service.

Impact on Healthcare

Cost Plus Drugs claims to provide significant savings on drugs by working directly with drug manufacturers. The online pharmacy does not accept any form of insurance. This method of supplying prescription medication could significantly impact insurance companies, healthcare providers, and their patients. 

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What this means for insurance companies and Medicare

Insurance companies often negotiate with drug manufacturers to get lower prices. These negotiations can cause wide disparities in drug costs from one plan to another, depending on how much volume of the drug in question an insurer can move

However, if insurance companies use a single point of negotiation and a central supply source, drug companies might lower their prices to remain competitive. Harvard Medical School researchers found that Medicare could save $3.6 billion a year in drug costs if Medicare purchased those prescriptions directly from this new pharmacy. 

What this means for providers

For nurse practitioners, physicians, and other providers, the new Mark Cuban pharmacy could substantially change how those providers manage patients' medical conditions. One of the biggest reasons patients are non-compliant with medication is that the prescriptions are too expensive. With more affordable prescription pricing, providers may be able to put patients on a medication regimen that would have otherwise been unaffordable. Furthermore, healthcare providers and patients will have all medications readily available to them while not worrying about an in-person pharmacy being out of stock or back-ordered. 

What this means for patients

The new Mark Cuban pharmacy could be an excellent option for uninsured patients looking to save money on their prescription medications. Even with insurance, some prescription copays are too expensive for patients to afford. The discounts obtained due to Cost Plus Drugs' direct negotiations with manufacturers might mean the difference between getting the medication they need or skipping treatment altogether. 

How Does the Process of Ordering From Cost Plus Drugs Work?

To order from Cost Plus Drugs, patients must sign up for an account on the pharmacy's website. During this process, patients will complete a health profile that includes information like their allergies, health conditions, and current medications.

After creating an account, patients can check Cost Plus Drugs' medication catalog to make sure the company offers their medication. Patients can then contact their provider to send a new prescription to Cost Plus Drugs. After that, patients pay for the medication, and the order is mailed directly to the patient.

According to Cost Plus Drugs, patients can place orders for all their prescription refills at once. The pharmacy sends refills automatically once a patient's supply is at about 50%. While Cost Plus Drugs does not appear to offer any discount on a three-month supply of medication, the processing and shipping charges are per order. Getting a larger quantity at one time could mean lower administrative costs for the patient.

What Are Some Common Drugs That Are Cheaper at Cost Plus Drugs?

Cost Plus Drugs has a wide range of common drugs with significant discounts over some retailers. Here are just a few examples of one-month supply costs:

  • Atorvastatin (Lipitor): $3.60 at Cost Plus Drugs, $36 at Kroger

  • Esomeprazole (Nexium): $6 at Cost Plus Drugs, $55 at CVS

  • Ketorolac (Toradol): $14.40 at Cost Plus Drugs, $44 at Kroger

  • Levonorgestrel / Ethinyl Estradiol (Levora): $6 at Cost Plus Drugs, $75 at Kroger

  • Ondansetron (Zofran): $6.30 at Cost Plus Drugs, $64 at CVS

  • Sumatriptan (Imitrex): $9 at Cost Plus Drugs, $49 at Kroger

What Are the Pros and Cons of Using Cost Plus Drugs?

With any new healthcare service, it's essential to analyze the pros and cons for patients. It's too early to tell how successful Cost Plus Drugs will be in the long run. However, there are some clear advantages and disadvantages to using Mark Cuban's new pharmacy.

Some pros of using Cost Plus Drugs include:

  • Automatic refills when supplies are low

  • Deep discounts on common medications

  • The convenience of having medications shipped

  • No need to deal with insurance companies

Some cons of using Cost Plus Drugs are:

  • Patients need internet access to sign up for the service

  • There is a processing fee for each prescription

  • Patients cannot pick up their medications in person

  • Must wait for the delivery of the medication (depending on the geographical area - could take longer or be delayed)

Is Cost Plus Drugs the Future of Pharmacies?

It's too early to say whether Cost Plus Drugs will revolutionize the pharmacy industry. However, the deep discounts on common medications could make a big difference for patients who struggle to afford their prescription costs. The convenience of patients having the medication shipped directly to them without dealing with insurance is also a major plus.

While there may be some drawbacks to using the service, such as the processing fee for each order and the inability to pick prescriptions up in person, these may not be enough to deter patients from looking for ways to save money on their rising healthcare costs. Ultimately, only time will tell whether Cost Plus Drugs is here to stay.

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