When Dr. Alex Oshymansky started a public-benefit company to combat the exploding prices of certain prescription drugs, he attracted the interest of Shark Tank billionaire investor, Mark Cuban.
The Dallas radiologist started in 2015 with Osh’s Affordable Pharmaceuticals. Four years later, he was marketing under the name “Mark Cuban’s Cost Plus Drug Co,” and donating medicine to those in need.
Prior to his business exploration, Oshymansky had been looking for ways of making prescription drugs less-expensive for years. A mixture of FDA demands for approval and lobbying famously causes occasional rocketing rates for drugs, and this had begun making Cuban “bleeping mad.”
After Osh’s first company generated over a million dollars in a first round of seed money, it caught the Shark’s eye. Now under Cuban’s brand name, the private-label arrangement allows Oshymansky to buy from third party suppliers, take care of the labeling and branding laws himself, and sell it at a serious discount while skimming merely 15% off the top for the business expenses.
This method allowed the pair to lower the cost of an anti-parasitic medication called albendazole from its normal price range of $225-$500, down to just fifty bucks.
This proved especially valuable for Baylor College of Medicine, who needed thousands of doses of albendazole to complete a study they were doing on hookworm infections.
The malaise of the South
“The Germ of the South,” was a catch-all term that characterized a curious lethargy and haziness of the brain, distended bellies, and emaciated shoulder blades, found across the Deep South during the 20th century.
It was all caused by infections from the American hookworm, which even today infects large numbers of people, particularly children, due to poor sanitation and poverty.
One study done in Lowndes County Alabama of 24 homes found that 34% of stool samples contained the parasite, killed rather quickly by albendazole.
Cuban and Oshymansky donated their first 10,000 doses of the company’s supply of albendazole to Baylor and the author of the study, Dr. Rojelio Mejia, so that volunteers from Alabama to New York who test positive for hookworm can immediately purge the parasite from their bodies.
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Other drug companies estimated that the number of doses which the two entrepreneurs donated would have cost $2 million, removing the funding for potential epidemic-ending research from being conducted.
“We are thrilled to be able to support the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor in its work to study and help eliminate hookworm in the South,” said Dr. Oshmyansky.
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“We found it deeply troubling that albendazole is extremely expensive in the United States, and we are happy to be able to manufacture it for free for this research and provide it at significantly decreased prices to the rest of the U.S. market.”
A Dallas buyers club
Currently Mark Cuban’s Cost Plus Drugs only offers albendazole, but Oshymansky is working to find suppliers for other pharmaceuticals, and the company’s website is aiming for 100 new offerings by the end of 2021.
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“There are no hidden costs, no middlemen, no rebates only available to insurance companies,” the company website says, describing their model as “radically transparent.”
They are also in the process of constructing a facility in Dallas where they will fulfill labeling laws and offer drugs for rare diseases directly to patients or through outpatient facilities.
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Finally, as helpful as this will all be for American consumers and patients, the effect could be a compounding one, as buying FDA-approved drugs from independent suppliers before giving them a makeover and selling them at an extreme discount means a dose of free market competition being delivered into a market which is nearly a government-run monopoly in which few competitors survive, even though millions of consumers are crying out for alternatives.
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