Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban’s online pharmacy, which launched last week, does not accept health insurance. What the Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company does offer, however, is prescription drugs at such steeply discounted prices that it says you’ll still wind up paying less than you would at a typical pharmacy.
That’s because Cuban’s online pharmacy is selling generic drugs at manufacturers’ prices plus a flat 15 percent markup. So mesalamine, a medication that is used to treat ulcerative colitis and retails for more than $950, can be had for $36.90. The antidepressant fluoxetine (brand name: Zoloft; retail price: $22.94) is sold for $3.90. And so on.
Cuban, businessman that he is, surely saw there was a demand for more affordable drugs. Almost everybody agrees that prescription drug prices are, to borrow a phrase, too damn high. (This is despite the fact that surveys show the pharmaceutical industry—long a go-to villain in American life—is more popular than it’s been in years, at least in part because of Big Pharma’s role in the swift development of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.) There isn’t such widespread agreement on who or what is at fault for these high prices.
Cuban unsurprisingly (and somewhat convincingly) blames the middlemen. His pharmacy sets prices directly with manufacturers, leaving out the so-called “pharmacy-benefit management” companies that usually do the negotiating and, critics argue, pocket a more than reasonable share of the savings.
This new company is not the result of a Shark Tank bit, but a cold-email fundraising pitch sent to Cuban by Dr. Alex Oshmyansky, a diagnostic radiologist who told D CEO last year that he wanted to “bypass all the intermediary players and get [drugs] sold to patients as directly as possible with transparent pricing.”
“[The pharmaceutical industry] is all very mysterious and nebulous, and I think it’s to allow bad actors to continue their practices unabated,” Oshmyansky said at the time.
Next up is “the construction of a state-of-the-art pharmaceutical factory in Dallas slated for completion by the end of 2022,” the company says in a press release.
This is, at the very least, a better addition to Cuban’s portfolio than his collection of butt-ugly NFTs.