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Mark Cuban Takes On Walgreens, CVS, Amazon in Crowded Drug Space

The Dallas-based online pharmacy on Wednesday debuted its services with a goal to help shield consumers from inflated drug prices.

Mark Cuban is taking on leading online pharmacies Walgreens  (WBA) - Get Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc Report, CVS  (CVS) - Get CVS Health Corporation Report and Rite Aid  (RAD) - Get Rite Aid Corporation Report, as well as newcomer Amazon  (AMZN) - Get, Inc. Report, with the launch of his discount e-commerce pharmacy.

Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Co. on Wednesday debuted its services just weeks after establishing its pharmacy benefit manager operation with a goal to help shield consumers from inflated drug prices, the company said in a statement.

"We will do whatever it takes to get affordable pharmaceuticals to patients," Alex Oshmyansky, CEO of Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug said in the statement. "The markup on potentially lifesaving drugs that people depend on is a problem that can't be ignored. It is imperative that we take action and help expand access to these medications for those who need them most."

Mark Cuban Cost Plus can bypass middlemen and large markups as a registered pharmaceutical wholesaler, the company said. The pharmacy's prices reflect actual manufacturer prices plus a flat 15% margin and pharmacist fee.

Consumers can expect a seamless, secure e-commerce experience as they navigate the pharmacy's website, built and powered by digital healthcare company Truepill. Customers will have access to prescription fulfillment and delivery through Truepill's nationwide pharmacy footprint.

The Dallas-based online pharmacy will be a cash pay venture, since the company refuses to pay spread prices to third-party pharmacy benefit managers in order to be allowed to process insurance claims. Patients can immediately purchase a broad array of medications at prices often less than what most insurance plans' deductible and copay requirements would total, the statement said.

Mark Cuban Cost Plus will be the latest competitor to take on online pharmacy market leaders Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid. In 2020, Walgreens had the highest e-commerce net sales with $1.8 billion, trailed by CVS at $1.2 billion and Rite Aid with $199 million, according to Statista.

Global online pharmacy market in 2020 was estimated at over $68 billion, according to Facts and Factors.

Amazon, which purchased online pharmacy PillPack in 2018 for $753 million, launched its e-commerce drugstore Amazon Pharmacy in 2020. In May, the company also was considering a move to open pharmacies in its Whole Foods stores as well as brick-and-mortar storefronts, according to a Business Insider report.

About 18 million Americans were recently unable to pay for at least one prescription medication for their household due to ever-rising costs, according to a September 2021 Gallup poll, and one in 10 Americans have skipped doses to save money, the statement said.

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Promising Significant Prescription Savings

Among the medications that offer significant savings are leukemia treatment Imatinib, which has a $9,657 a month retail price but will only cost $47 through Mark Cuban Cost Plus. Ulcerative colitis treatment Mesalamine, which retails for $940 a month, costs $32.40 through the new e-commerce pharmacy.

Finally, gout treatment Colchicine, which retails for $182 a month, costs $8.70 a month.

In November 2021, Mark Cuban Cost Plus entered the pharmacy benefit manager industry to serve companies providing prescription coverage in their employee benefit plans. The company has pledged to be "radically transparent" in its own negotiations with drug companies, revealing the true costs it pays for drugs and eliminating spread pricing and misaligned rebate incentives. 

"There are numerous bad actors in the pharmaceutical supply chain preventing patients from getting affordable medicines," Oshmyansky said. "The only way to ensure affordable prices get through is to vertically integrate."