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Billionaire Mark Cuban launches online pharmacy aimed at lowering generic drug prices

DALLAS, TEXAS - JANUARY 05: Dallas Mavericks team owner Mark Cuban wears a shirt honoring former player Dirk Nowitzki during a ceremony honoring his Nowitzki's career and retiring his No. 41 jersey at American Airlines Center on January 05, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tweeted of his new online pharmacy: "All drugs are priced at cost plus 15% ! Sign up and share your thoughts and experiences with us !"

Billionaire investor and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has launched an online pharmacy for generic drugs that promises steep discounts over traditional distributors.The Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company announced the opening of its online pharmacy Wednesday. The pharmacy says it will bypass health care industry "middlemen" and help consumers avoid high drug prices by charging manufacturers' prices plus a flat 15% markup and pharmacist fee."All drugs are priced at cost plus 15% ! Sign up and share your thoughts and experiences with us !" Cuban tweeted last week.The launch comes several weeks after the company established its own pharmacy benefit manager. PBMs are companies that work directly with health insurers, drugmakers and pharmacies to manage drug benefits and have a major impact on the prices of prescription medicines.Sky-high drug costs have long been a problem in the U.S. A Gallup poll released in September found that 18 million Americans reported being unable to afford at least one doctor-prescribed medication in the previous three months. President Biden said in December that the U.S. had to do something about "outrageously expensive" prescription drugs.Cuban's pharmacy says it will negotiate drug prices directly with manufacturers to lower costs for consumers. The pharmacy doesn't accept health insurance but says prices will still be lower than what people would typically pay at a pharmacy."The markup on potentially lifesaving drugs that people depend on is a problem that can't be ignored," Alex Oshmyansky, CEO of Cuban's online pharmacy, said in a statement. "It is imperative that we take action and help expand access to these medications for those who need them most."The website currently offers 100 generic drugs to treat a variety of illnesses, including diabetes, asthma and heart conditions.One drug for diabetes patients, metformin, sells for $3.90 for a 30-day supply, compared to a retail price of $20, the pharmacy said. A 30-count of imatinib, which is used to treat leukemia and other cancers, goes for as low as $17.10 at Cuban's pharmacy compared with $2,502.60 at other pharmacies.

A version of this story originally appeared in the Morning Edition live blog. Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.