Pharmacy times interviewed Yoona Kim, PharmD, PhD, co-founder and CEO of Arine, about how Mark Cuban’s pharmacy can help change the paradigm for Medicare.
Alana Hippensteele: Hi, I’m Alana Hippensteele with Pharmacy times. With me is Yoona Kim, PharmD, PhD, a pharmacist, health economist, and co-founder and CEO of drug intelligence company Arine, who is here to discuss some of the insights that can be gained from Mark Cuban’s pharmacy and the potential to change the paradigm for Medicare.
So, what do you think are some of the most important things we learned from the launch of Mark Cuban’s pharmacy Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Co?
Yoona Kim: First, I think it’s a huge progress. If patients can have a more affordable solution to get important chronic medications, especially for those who are underinsured and uninsured, that’s a big step forward, and if Mark Cuban can put his name on it and make it known, that’s great too.
When it comes to medicine, medicine and drug management and everything that comes with it is, of course, an ongoing and complex issue. What we have learned is that there is no magic bullet. There are so many parts of the pharmacy value chain that need to be disrupted, from making sure patients are prescribed the right drugs, to a low-cost solution like Mark Cuban’s pharmacy, to adherence and engagement solutions that make sure patients get their drugs correctly. to take . So again, huge progress, but more needs to be done, especially in light that most of the Mark Cuban pharmacy is dispensing more generics these days.
Alana Hippensteele: Right. Media coverage was both positive and negative about the impact of Mark Cuban’s pharmacy on the healthcare market. Why do you think there are such mixed reactions to the launch of his pharmacy?
Yoona Kim: I think there’s been mixed reactions, probably because they’re focusing on generics now, and probably because this concept already exists – Walmart came out with 4 dollar generics many years ago. But again, the good thing here is that Mark Cuban has hundreds of generics that he offers at a lower cost, and there is price transparency around it. He also talks about getting branded drugs on board, which would be huge. We already know that almost 10% of our population is uninsured. That’s over 30 million people. So this is a good option for those who need an affordable solution.
However, if you think about the patient populations looking for low-cost options and taking these chronic conditions, they need ongoing clinical care. They probably have co-morbidities, probably struggle to get the right drugs suitable for their conditions. So I think the first step is to make sure the right drugs are prescribed and then make sure patients have access to drugs.
Another concern that I know Scott raised in the media is that with this new pharmacy we may be fragmenting care because patients are now getting some drugs from one pharmacy, other drugs from another pharmacy, and we all know that patients develop relationships with their community pharmacies. And that can cause confusion. We pharmacists often talk about medication synchronization as an important intervention to improve adherence and continuity of care.
Then in this case there is no data feedback from Mark Cuban pharmacy back to the payers or suppliers as this is typically a cash payment option these days. So a great option, but still some limitations.
Alana Hippensteele: Right. Cuban has stated that he wants to turn the drug market in the country upside down. How effective has he been toward this goal?
Yoona Kim: It remains to be seen whether he can turn the market upside down. There has been some talk that he could change the way payers pay for prescription drugs, and it will be interesting to see how this model will disrupt the PPE model, where there are many loopholes and ways PBMs make money providing them. medicines.
There was an intriguing article that was published in LA Times by a group of health economists, including Peter Newman, and the caption was, “Mark Cuban Won’t Solve Our Drug Pricing Problem.” And the point was that these were mostly generic drugs and not branded drugs that are even more expensive and really lead to high drug costs. The authors ask policymakers to instead consider value-based pricing models, which link pricing to drug benefits, and asked for cost-effectiveness studies comparing drug costs to benefits.
I think this makes a lot of sense and is a great idea. But when I look at the problem in general, we’re in the process of locking up drugs. And it’s not just about the cost of the drugs, it’s about how getting patients to the right therapies can affect the overall cost of care. Most of us, as pharmacists, are probably familiar with Scripps’ article, which talks about the cost of unoptimized drugs as a $530 billion problem. Most of this is on the medical side of the equation. Patients not receiving the right medication leads to unnecessary 33 million hospitalizations per year and 275,000 deaths per year, all of which are 100% preventable. And that’s why I started with Arine to tackle this core problem: getting patients the right medicines, taking the whole patient picture into account.
Alana Hippensteele: Right. What are some of the other existing technologies that could help curb the cost of drugs? And are these technologies fully utilized by Medicare?
Yoona Kim: There are many AI-driven technologies that are revolutionizing all aspects of healthcare, but especially around medicine. There is AI drug discovery, companies that can help identify drug targets faster and really speed up the drug development process. There are precision medicine solutions that use AI that can help find the right therapies upfront without too much trial and error, the same goes for pharmacogenomics companies. And then there are technologies like Arine, which provide safe and effective drug therapy, which are focused not just on reducing drug costs alone, but on the whole picture and lowering the total cost of care by getting patients the right medication. So there are many interesting technologies that can really change the quality and cost of care.
Alana Hippensteele: How can pharmacies leverage existing systems to reduce costs, not only for patients, but also for pharmacies?
Yoona Kim: I feel for the pharmacies because I think the current margins on the pharmacy business are already thin. I really think the pharmacies can take advantage of this by increasing their revenue streams and going beyond just the pharmacy. I also believe that payers are starting to see the value of this and repay pharmacists for these types of solutions. We have a paying customer who pays community pharmacists to use Arine’s platform and perform comprehensive medication management services when a patient collects their medications from the pharmacy. We have shown huge improvements in health as a result: 40% reduction in hospital admissions, savings in total healthcare costs. Arine’s platform really helps to scale these clinical services because in a busy distribution environment it’s difficult to do these clinical programs along with the dispensing of the drugs, but by having a platform-based approach that automates the provision of recommendations and the data into actionable recommendations, which enables the pharmacist to then do what he does best and instead spend time on patient counseling. I think, even within the pharmacy environment, there are many opportunities to go beyond just the pharmacy.
Alana Hippensteele: What are your predictions for how Mark Cuban’s pharmacy will affect the healthcare economy in the long run?
Yoona Kim: Again, if I look at the numbers, as a health economist, I think that article said that Mark Cuban’s pharmacy could save up to $3.6 billion annually, and if I look at the cost of unoptimized drugs, then is that a $530 billion problem. Just by giving patients the right drugs, I think that can move the needle even more. When we think of drugs in general, I mean they’re powerful. They have the ability to control almost all medical conditions. Some drugs actually lead to a cure, but it makes sure that patients get the right drugs, and then secondly to increase access to these drugs and give patients access to these drugs. I think eventually all these different parts of the solution come together, from those like Mark Cuban’s pharmacy, focusing on an affordability angle, to those like adherence solutions like GlowCaps, and those like Arine, looking at safe and effective drug therapy and other companies that monitor run remotely to keep track of disease progression. I think all these pieces coming together will move the needle in the long run.
Alana Hippensteele: Any closing thoughts?
Yoona Kim: I am very optimistic about the future, especially with pharmacists. I believe that pharmacists play a key role in this. They know how to advise patients to take their medications, they know which medications are the right choices, and how to talk to prescribers about how to make sure the right medication choices and dosage are made. Pharmacists have countless touch points with patients, especially in environments such as the community pharmacy, and it is with the help of various technologies that will make this type of clinical services more scalable, and that is the passion I have that seduced and motivated me to start Arine me to start with Arine, and I also see many other innovations in pharmacy to increase the role of the pharmacist. I think the future is very rosy.