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You may have been the lucky recipient of an invitation to Mark Cuban’s Cost Plus Drug’s “Insulin Test Program” this week. While the program is not yet open to the public, the mere fact its come far enough to launch a limited test program offers hope to the millions of people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes who depend on daily insulin therapy to survive.
Here’s what we know so far.
What is Cost Plus Drugs?
The Cost Plus Drug Company aims to provide prescription medications without the middlemen — pharmacy benefits managers — who play a significant role in the soaring prices of many medications, including insulin.
For those with or without insurance, Mark Cuban states on the company’s website that they strive to dramatically reduce the cost of critical medications while maintaining transparency about the pricing.
For example, Cost Plus Drugs adds a 15% markup to every medication. No games. Just an equal 15% on every medication.
Examples of discounts on medications via Cost Plus Drugs reported by CNet:
- “The generic version of Actos — prescribed for patients with diabetes and typically sold for $74.40 at standard pharmacies — is available for $5.40 for 30 pills, according to the website.”
- “The generic version of Apriso — prescribed for patients with gastrointestinal disease and sold for $122.70 at standard pharmacies — goes for $36.60 for 30 pills.”
They currently offer about 350 generic drugs at discounted prices with approximately 1.5 million customers, receiving medications via good ol’ fashioned mail. (The insulin is packaged to protect it properly from extreme temperatures — which is why the shipping & handling of insulin in particular, costs significantly more than other medications — $65 vs. $5.)
For some people, the cost they can offer doesn’t beat the copay with decent health insurance. For those without health insurance, it might be life-changing.
Why is offering insulin a bigger deal for Cost Plus Drugs?
While state-based $35 monthly copay caps on insulin are making headlines often these days, those caps only apply to those on healthcare plans through the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid. The federal $35 monthly copay cap only applies to those on Medicare.
Cuban explains that offering insulin is trickier because it is a “biologic product” which means its extracted from living cells. It’s more expensive and difficult to produce. And lastly, there are a critical variety of types of insulin — which means Cuban cannot simply offer one or two and meet every person’s insulin needs.
“Adding insulin to the Cost Plus Drug’s offerings will be an expensive endeavor,” explains NBC News. “The business has already spent $5 million just to go through the initial phases of selling the medication, Cuban said, and even considered spending another $150 million to $250 million to create a manufacturing plant.”
“It’s the right thing to do,” Cuban told NBC News, but he acknowledged that Cost Plus Drugs will still earn a profit on insulin as they do with their other offerings.
How the Insulin Test Program Works
In this recent Test Program launch, Cost Plus Drugs is offering one type of insulin in a vial or pen:
- Insulin Lispro Injection U-100 vial
- Insulin Lispro Injection U-100 KwikPen
Lispro is essentially the generic version of Humalog — a rapid-acting insulin used for meals and corrections.
You can order a 90-day supply based on your prescription needs but there is a maximum order allowed.
Maximum 90-supply quantity:
- 12 vials
- 40 KwikPens
Insurance will not be accepted for the test program.
- Shipping & Handling Free: $65 per order
- 90-day supply Lispro vials/pens: $105
- Total cost: $170
Regardless of how many vials a 90-day supply is for each person, the price does not change — but the test program acknowledges this shortcoming and hopes to address it soon.
Ordering does require a prescription from your doctor sent to Cost Plus Drugs following their explicit instructions.
Would this program help you?
While the elephant in the room is still the insulin manufacturers themselves — Cuban and his mission at Cost Plus Drugs seems like a powerful step in the right direction.
What do you think? Would the pricing in this current Insulin Test Program be beneficial for you?
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