After Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company told customers to expect delays in prescription deliveries this fall, Marley Drug executives used the company’s communications to present itself as a more experienced alternative.
In other words, this is a company that can meet demand in these times of limited supply.
Based in Dallas, Texas Price plus medication launched in 2022 and offers almost 1,000 products online that ship by mail. It cuts out the middlemen to offer drugs at lower prices, often 80% less than common generic drugs.
A Cost Plus Drugs customer received an email from the company in October stating that “due to a surge in demand” delivery times were delayed. For those who have selected standard five to seven business day shipping, the estimated delivery time has been extended to 10 to 14 days. For those who have opted for expedited shipping of one to three days, the estimated delivery time has been extended to six to 10 days. The company also said some drugs were out of stock.
A spokesman for Cost Plus Drugs confirmed there had been delays recently but had since rectified the problem by increasing staff to meet demand.
But as Cost Plus Drugs adjusts to its growing customer base, Marley Drug is another competitive option that isn’t experiencing any slowdowns, said Ruben Saba, vice president of medical and business affairs at Medicure, Marley Drug’s parent company. The pharmacy was founded in 2003.
“It’s probably pretty impossible for one company to serve roughly over 300 million Americans, and we’re certainly seeing that. There are several different options, including Marley Drug,” Saba said in an interview. “Our goal is to provide support for those Americans who want to access cost-effective medicines in a timely manner.”
Based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina Marley Drug is a full-service pharmacy that ships to all 50 states, serving insured, uninsured and underinsured patients. There is also a storefront in Winston-Salem where customers can go in person to pick up prescriptions. It is wholesale price list provides over 100 commonly prescribed medications in a half or full year’s supply for $37 or $70, respectively. It uses USPS to ship medications, which can take between two to five business days, depending on which shipping option the customer chooses.
It is able to provide low-cost options because it prices its generic drugs at what it costs the company to buy them.
“We determine it based on what it costs us to acquire the drug, so there’s not any tiered pricing or anything like that that’s often associated with PBMs and health insurance agencies,” Saba said. Spread pricing is a practice used by Pharmacy Benefit Managers where they charge payers more than they pay the pharmacy for drugs and then keep the difference.
Since it was founded in 2003, Marley Drug has the experience to meet the high demand that newer companies may not be able to achieve, Saba said.
“There’s healthy competition around, and I think that speaks to our experience,” Saba said. “We have been around for nearly 20 years. We are primarily an inpatient pharmacy that has experience with all types of customers… We have the ability to exceed our current limitations to support the demand we have.”
Another company in the space is the online pharmacy DiRxwhich launches in 2021. To offer affordable prices, like Marley Drug and Cost Plus Drugs, DiRx cuts out middlemen such as drug wholesalers and buys drugs directly from manufacturers. His program called Annual savings plan allows patients to either pay $119 per person per year for 500 products or $299 per person per year for 1,000 products. The company has not experienced any delays, said Satish Srinivasan, CEO and founder of DiRx.
“Although DiRx has experienced ever-increasing demand in order volumes every month since launching a year ago, we have been able to keep up with this growing demand.” Srinivasan wrote in an email.
Although Cost Plus Drugs experienced some difficulties as a new company, it speaks to Americans’ need for affordable prescription drugs, Saba said.
“Mr. Cuban gave a strong voice to this movement for access to cost-effective drugs at a cash price instead of going through the traditional insurance channel, where prices for even the most common generic drugs can be really high,” he said. “He’s certainly brought this to national attention.”
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