How Medicare Could Save $1.29 Billion a Year on Urology Drugs

Roxanne Nelson RN, BSN

February 15, 2023

Last year billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban launched a company offering generic medication at prices that are substantially lower than the current market listings. A new study estimates using this source for the most commonly used urology drugs could save more than $1 billion each year.

The study was published in The Journal of Urology.

"We found that if the U.S. government used Mark Cuban's cost-plus drug pricing model to supply urological drugs to Medicare patients, they would save taxpayers an estimated $1.29 billion [per year]," said lead author Ruchika Talwar, MD, a fellow in Urologic Oncology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee, in a statement. "It means that patients would be able to get their drugs more affordably, but also means that taxpayer funds could go toward other important issues and hopefully save us all some money in general."

The researchers examined the potential savings if Medicare prices for generic drugs were as low as those offered by the Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company (MCCPDC) for nine drugs commonly used in urology: tamsulosin, finasteride, oxybutynin, alfuzosin, solifenacin, tolterodine, sildenafil, tadalafil, and abiraterone.

The 2020 Medicare cost for all nine drugs came to an approximate total of $1.565 billion.

Except for tamsulosin and finasteride, which already have a low average cost, all of the other 30-day prescription drug prices offered by MCCPDC generated cost savings for Medicare. The percentage of savings using the 30-day prescription model ranged from 16.9% to 98.9%.

When looking at 90-day prescription costs, all the drugs would offer cost savings, ranging from 48.7% to 99.2%.

However, the cost savings for abiraterone alone was dramatic as it amounted to $656 million per year. Used to treat metastatic prostate cancer, the savings for abiraterone extrapolated to almost 52% of all potential Medicare savings for urological drugs in both 30-day and 90-day prescription models.

"Just by changing the way one commonly prescribed drug (abiraterone) was purchased, we could convey a benefit of more than $650 million in cost savings to taxpayers," Talwar said.

"The impact of this could be astronomical across all cancers…any sort of oral, generic drug available through Mark Cuban's company can be a lot cheaper for many patients, not just Medicare patients, through this program," he added.

As previously reported by Medscape Medical News, the online pharmacy known as the Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company began operating in January 2022. At the time of its launch, it was selling more than 100 generic prescription drugs at the cost of ingredients and manufacturing plus a 15% margin, a $3 pharmacy dispensing fee, and a $5 shipping fee.

One of the drugs offering the biggest savings is generic imatinib, which is used for chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), certain acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), and certain types of gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST).

Imatinib has a list retail price of $2502, but at the Mark Cuban pharmacy, it is available for $14.40, which offers savings of $2488.

In another study published last July, Harvard researchers had also attempted to measure potential Medicare savings using prices from the Cuban pharmacy. They analyzed a broad range of 89 generic drugs listed at MCCPDC and found that Medicare Part D could have saved more than $3 billion in 2020 if it had purchased them at these prices.

Last month the Cuban pharmacy announced that it was partnering with pharmacy benefits manager RxPreferred Benefits, which will allow them to offer their drugs through some employer-backed health insurance plans.

RxPreferred Benefits' customers will now have the option to use Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drugs as part of their health insurance plans.

The authors report no relevant financial relationships.

J Urol. Published February 1, 2023. Full text.

Roxanne Nelson is a registered nurse and an award-winning medical writer who has written for many major news outlets and is a regular contributor to Medscape.

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