Mark Cuban's online pharmacy, Vivio partner on specialty drugs for health plans, employers

Mark Cuban's online pharmacy, Cost Plus Drug Co., has picked up another partner to help it enter the specialty drug market.

Cost Plus said Oct. 18 it's now collaborating with Vivio, a San Leandro, Calif.-based specialty drug management platform that markets itself as a PBM alternative.

Vivio's clinicians and researchers match evidence from drug trials with individual patient data to improve outcomes and lower costs for their customers, which include health plans and self-insured employers.

"Unlike PBMs, we don't have a formulary or own any pharmacies or provider services," Vivio CEO Pramod John said. "Instead, our sole business is to use data to ensure drugs are working for each patient and are acquired at the lowest cost."

Mr. Cuban said the relationship transpired after he was contacted about an individual unable to afford their generic specialty medication, droxidopa, which is used to raise blood pressure. The drug's quoted price was $3,000 a month, but Cost Plus was able to source a three-month supply for $75.

"I mentioned this in an interview with Trevor Noah on The Daily Show and this caught the attention of Pramod John, the CEO of Vivio," Mr. Cuban said. "As it turns out, Vivio also has patients taking droxidopa. I am excited to say our relationship was finalized in a matter of days."

Cost Plus currently offers nearly 1,000 generic medications and only charges consumers 15 percent more than it pays to buy the drug from the manufacturer, along with a $3 per prescription dispensing fee plus shipping.

The company had originally planned to build its own PBM to move beyond generics, but it's now also partnering with Rightway, a New York City-based PBM that aims to reduce costs and has no rebates or spread pricing.

"It's turned out to be much more efficient to partner with transparently minded and innovative PBMs like Rightway," Cost Plus co-founder and CEO Alex Oshmyansky, MD, PhD, told Becker's Sept. 27. "Why build all that infrastructure ourselves when there are good actors in the space who already have done it for us?"

Rightway now has access to the company's full drug arsenal. For future partnerships, Dr. Oshmyansky said Cost Plus wants to avoid the "de facto bribes" PBMs can get for adding drug wholesalers to their formularies. 

Mr. Cuban told Politico Sept. 28 that insurers, especially smaller ones that don't own a PBM, have started sending their members directly to Cost Plus instead of traditional pharmacies.

The company nabbed its first payer partner, Capital Blue Cross, Oct. 6. 

The Harrisburg, Pa.-based insurer is the first in the nation to collaborate with the company, saying Oct. 6 that members will be able to use their insurance cards at Cost Plus starting next year. Members can already purchase drugs through the payer's site and then get reimbursed or put the cost toward their deductible (if eligible) by submitting a claim. Blue Cross cited savings of up to 80 percent on commonly prescribed, generic prescriptions.

"Our goal is to be the low-cost provider of all medications we are able to sell," Mr. Cuban told Becker's July 12. "Hopefully in doing so we will have an impact on affordability for patients."

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