Payers are steering their members to Mark Cuban's pharmacy

Mark Cuban's online pharmacy, Cost Plus Drug Co., is grabbing the attention of insurers, and the company has now nabbed its first payer partner, Capital Blue Cross. 

"We are proud to have you as a partner," Mr. Cuban tweeted Oct. 6. "This is a game changer."

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.

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.

"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."

The billionaire investor and Shark Tank star told Politico Sept. 28 that other insurers, especially smaller ones that don't own a pharmacy benefit manager, have started sending their members directly to Cost Plus instead of traditional pharmacies.

"Many, particularly the ones that are not part of large, vertically integrated companies, are often charged more for meds than what we sell them for," he said. "There are already some that send their patients to us and reimburse them."

And it isn't just payers Mr. Cuban is pushing to take advantage of the low prices. He tweeted Sept. 25 that his basketball team, the Dallas Mavericks, could have saved thousands of dollars annually if they used Cost Plus for generic drugs.

"If you run a self-insured company, I STRONGLY suggest you compare how much you spend on generic drugs to our pricing," he wrote. "We analyzed what the Mavs spent over the last 2 years. It was $165k. With @costplusdrugs it would have been $19k!"

The benefits of Cost Plus are also expected to grow, and soon. The company had originally planned to build its own pharmacy benefit manager to move beyond generics, but it's now partnering with Rightway, a 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. 

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