The cost of prescription drugs has many Americans in trouble.is at an all-time high, but drug prices have risen even faster over the past decade, by 35% since 2014, compared to 19% for all goods and services, according to Healthcare Finance.
About 18 million people in the U.S. can’t afford their prescriptions, according to a 2021 Gallup poll that also found that 1 in 10 adults skip prescribed doses to save money.
To ease the burden of high drug prices, billionaire entrepreneur and TV personality Mark Cuban launched Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drugs in early 2022.offers prescription drugs lower than most pharmacies list prices: A June 2022 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that Medicare could have saved $3.6 billion in 2020 if it had bought prescription drugs from Cost Plus Drugs .
How does Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drugs work, why are the prices so cheap and how can you take advantage of those low prices? We’ll give you all the details on a service that could potentially save you hundreds or more a year on needed medications.
What is Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drugs?
Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drugs (less formally referred to as Cost Plus Drugs) was founded by Mark Cuban and radiologist Dr. Alexander Oshmyansky, now the company’s CEO, because men were fed up with the high prices for prescription drugs.
In a February 2 broadcast interview on The ViewCuban said, “When I see an industry as complicated and confused as the pharmaceutical industry, I saw it as a great opportunity, and that allows us to charge much, much less.”
The Cost Plus Drugs website launched in January 2022 with the goal of avoiding pharmacy benefit administrators — middlemen who negotiate drug prices with manufacturers for health insurers. PBMs have been criticized for pocketing negotiated savings, as well as for a practice called “spread pricing,” where PBMs receive more money from insurers than was actually paid for the drug.
A few weeks before its launch, Cost Plus Drugs created its own pharmacy benefits manager, allowing it to provide drugs to companies with health plans. Cuban has promised that Cost Plus Drugs’ PPE will be “radically transparent” when negotiating drug prices and not use staggered pricing.
What drugs are available at Cost Plus Drugs?
As of August 4, 2022, Cost Plus Drugs offers 337 drugs, including drugs for high cholesterol, kidney disease, mental health, diabetes, arthritis, migraines, allergies, cancer, HIV, seizures, and many other conditions.
Cost Plus Drugs sells the top 10 most commonly prescribed generic drugs in the US — atorvastatin, levothyroxine, lisinopril, metformin, amlodipine, metoprolol, albuterol, omeprazole, losartan, and simvastatin — as well as many of the top 50 most commonly prescribed drugs. (Although Cost Plus Drugs warns that some drugs are in limited supply due to supply chain issues, a random check of 50 of the 337 drugs found that they were all available.)
The site notes that it is constantly expanding its inventory and provides a form for submitting applications for new drugs. In his interview with The View, Cuban said he hopes to sell 2,000 drugs by mid-2023.
Cost Plus Drugs is also building an $11 million, 22,000-square-foot facility in Dallas, Texas, to manufacture its own versions of generic drugs.
How Much Lower Are Prescription Drug Prices at Cost Plus Drugs?
Drug prices in general will vary considerably depending on the provider and PPE. Cost Plus Drugs provides a comparison of a listed retail price and its own price for each drug it sells.
Some of the savings are noteworthy: 30 tablets of the generic version of the bipolar disorder drug Abilify (aripiprazole) retail for $678, while Cost Plus Drugs sells the same amount and dosage for $6.
However, retail prices of prescription drugs can be higher than what most people actually pay. Digital pharmacies like GoodRx, Blink Health, and SingleCare offer discounts and coupons that can significantly lower prices. Still, the prices at Cost Plus Drugs are favorable.
A box of 30 tablets of Zegerid’s generic version — commonly prescribed for acid reflux — currently sells for $20 at Cost Plus Drugs. Blink Health sells generic Zegerid for $86, much lower than a listed retail price of $2,073, but four times more than Cost Plus Drugs.
The savings appear to be real for many prescription drugs. Thirty tablets of the generic version of the heart drug Toprol XL (metoprolol succinate) cost $3.90 at Cost Plus Drugs, compared to $24 per 90 pills (or $8 per 30) at Costco.
The generic version of the antidepressant Pristiq costs $18 at Cost Plus Drugs. Cheap pharmacy GoodRx sells it for $25, the next lowest price we could find online. That’s much lower than the average retail price of $290, but more than Cost Plus Drugs.
In the offline world, we called a local CVS to find out the cost of a quarterly supply of generic Lipitor (Atorvastatin), a commonly prescribed drug for lowering cholesterol. We got $362 without insurance. At Cost Plus Drugs, the same quarterly supply of the 20 mg drug is sold for $6.
How do I order prescription drugs from Cost Plus Drugs?
First, you’ll want to check the list of drugs available at Cost Plus Drugs to see if it has the prescription drugs you need. If so, you will need to create an online account, verify your email address, and enter basic information about your health history and any current medications you are taking.
After you register with Cost Plus Drugs, you can give your doctor a paper form with all the information they need to submit your prescription.
Alternatively, you can ask your doctor to write a prescription that includes your name, email address, date of birth, and any medications you are taking. The National Council for Prescription Drug Programs (NCPDP) Provider ID for Cost Plus Drugs is 4940208 and the phone number for prescriptions is 833-926-3384.
Your doctor can also fax your prescription information or the paper form to 650-683-9775.
Why are prescription drugs so cheap at Cost Plus Drugs?
Contrary to the mysterious calculations behind drug pricing at traditional pharmacies, Cost Plus Drugs uses a transparent method – the wholesale price Cost Plus Drugs pays for the drug plus a 15% markup, a $3 pharmacy fee, and a $30 shipping fee. 5. Prescriptions are filled by pharmacy services startup Truepill.
On the company’s mission page, Cuban specifically mentions the price of Albendazole, a drug used to treat hookworm that continues to thrive among poorer communities in the southeastern US. (In a 2017 paper, researchers found that more than a third of people in one Alabama county were infected with hookworm disease.)
Normally, albendazole costs an average of $441 for the daily dose of two tablets, which can be taken for up to 30 days. At a wholesale price of $26 plus $4 storage and $3 pharmacy fees, Cost Plus Drugs can sell those two tablets for $33, plus $5 for shipping. Multiply that $408 in savings for two tablets by 30 days and you’re talking about a potential difference of $12,240.
Does Cost Plus Drugs have health insurance?
Cost Plus Drugs does not accept health insurance at this time. The site claims that, “even without insurance, our prices are lower than what you would pay using your insurance at a typical pharmacy.”
However, the company works with a number of pharmacy benefits administrators and allows the use of prescription drug discount cards to their members. According to the Cost Plus Drugs website, PBMs who work with Cost Plus Drugs can charge members the price listed on their website or the insurance co-payment, whichever is lower.
For more information, read howagainst rising prices.