There is a sickly irony in this country when it comes to health care. Many of us need pharmaceuticals to stay healthy, but their cost can cause even more health problems. It’s like a weird circle of “life”. Drug prices suck and Dallas’ Tony Stark, billionaire Mark Cuban, has had enough.
The owner of Mavericks has spun his latest entrepreneurial efforts to lower the price of prescription drugs with something called Cost Plus Drug Co. It’s an online pharmacy where anyone who needs to buy an expensive drug can get a significant discount even without insurance.
Drug prices in America have become a huge problem because there is virtually no negotiation between companies and…well, nobody. A 2020 editorial published by Mayo Clinic hematologist and oncologist S. Vincent Rajkumar in the Blood Cancer Journal blames these out-of-control prices on a number of issues, but the most important is “the existence of a monopoly”.
“For many new drugs, there are no other alternatives,” Rajkumar wrote. “In the case of cancer, even when there are multiple drugs to treat a specific malignancy, there is still no real price-based competition because most cancers are incurable and each drug must be used in the order for a given patient. Patients will need each effective drug at some point during their illness.”
Nor are there any regulations for American consumers to protect them from corporations and legal drug lords like Martin Shkreli when they decide to raise the cost of a life-saving drug by 5,000% – as he did so with the antiparasitic drug Daraprim in 2015. can also become obsolete in a short time, which does not allow them to develop generic alternatives at more affordable prices.
There have been advances in access through things like the Affordable Care Act of 2010, but even that landmark law has made no effort to reduce health care prices.
“Clearly, all monopolies need to be regulated in order to protect citizens, and therefore most developed countries use some form of regulation to cap introductory prices for new prescription drugs,” Rajkumar wrote. “Unregulated monopolies pose major problems.”
Cuba’s online pharmacy concept was launched in 2021. It’s certainly not a solution to the entire drug problem in America, but it may well start to make a serious dent as competition, in especially for some of the more expensive drugs on the market.
“We will do whatever it takes to bring affordable pharmaceuticals to patients,” Cost Plus Drug CEO Alex Oshmyansky said in a statement. “The mark-up on potentially life-saving drugs that people depend on is an issue that cannot be ignored.”
We dug a bit into the catalog of drugs available from Cost Plus Drugs and the price differences are staggering.
Abacavir/Lamivudine (Generic for Epizcom)
You would think that generic products would be cheaper. That’s why this nondescript box just branded “Corn Flakes” is cheaper than the “Corn Flakes” with the minimalist rooster on the cover. Not so for this HIV drug that “reduces your risk of getting complications from HIV such as new infections, cancer,” according to WebMD.
Retail price: $1,096.20
Cost plus price: $57.60
Things you can buy with the difference: 100 Roblox cards worth 800 Robux, 172 packs of five 7-gram packs of Jack Link’s Teriyaki Beef Jerky, an antique cherry wood grandfather clock.
Sustained-release cyclobenzaprine (Amrix)
According to the Food and Drug Administration, it is a skeletal muscle relaxant to help people with muscle spasms without interfering with muscle function.
Retail price: $1,094.40
Cost plus price: $53.10
Things you can buy with the difference: A fiberglass recycling station1,062 boxes of pirouline Chocolate and hazelnut cookie twists, a Rhino Glamis rim black put in matte black
People with chronic hepatitis B need medicines like this to fight the virus and prevent it from spreading to others.
Retail Price: $995.70
Cost plus price: $26.70
Things you can buy with the difference: a 256GB iPhone 7 Plus, the entire Cracker Barrel menu (only one item each, please).
This ridiculously expensive drug is used to treat an eye infection called cytomegalovirus retinitis, known to cause permanent blindness in people who have contracted AIDS.
Retail price: $1,750.50
Cost plus price: $100.20
What you can buy with the difference: a used Tektronix digital oscilloscope, an Acrus T-Series violin bow, 55 annual subscriptions to enjoy your food magazine.