Mark Cuban’s Cost Plus Drugs partners with Blue Shield

CVS Health shares toppled after Blue Shield of California, among the state’s biggest health insurance providers, stated it would drop the business’s Caremark system as its primary drug store advantage supervisor. 

The insurance company, a not-for-profit, stated Thursday it anticipates to conserve as much as $500 million a year by changing to a group of business consisting of Inc. and an upstart from billionaire Mark Cuban. It’s the most significant win yet for those beginners attempting to overthrow the existing prescription advantages system, and if it works might offer a plan for other insurance providers and companies to follow.

The objective is to alter the rewards for prescription advantages supervisors, suppliers and drug stores, stated Paul Markovich, president of Blue Shield of California. “They make more revenue and they make more profit when we sell a higher volume of more expensive drugs,” he stated in an interview. “We just need to start over in terms of thinking about this system.”

News of the prominent experiment sent out shares of dominant PBMs down dramatically: CVS shares fell 8.1% since trading close Thursday, its most given that October, while competitor Cigna Group fell 6.4%.

The Wall Street Journal previously reported the change-up.

Blue Shield might deal with obstacles changing one supplier for PBM services with 5, some with contending interests. “We’re skeptical this approach is sophisticated enough and practical, yet it bears watching,” Bloomberg Intelligence experts Jonathan Palmer and Jordan Dahan stated in a note. 

The insurance company is likewise not dropping CVS totally, as Caremark will continue to process more costly specialized drugs, a successful and growing market for PBMs.

Tapping Newcomers

Companies that offer health advantages have long regreted their absence of presence into just how much drug intermediaries pay and charge for medications. The California insurance company’s relocation will check whether it can put together an alternative supply chain including a mix of business brand-new to the drug store advantages company along with recognized providers.

Amazon, the retail giant whose higher penetration into the drug supply chain has actually been feared by drug store advantage supervisors and pharmacy chains, will provide at-home drug shipment. Mark Cuban’s Cost Plus Drugs Co. will offer access to affordable medications, and Abarca Health will process drug claims, Blue Shield of California stated. 

The strategy will likewise depend on Prime Therapeutics, a drug store advantages supervisor run by a group of Blue Cross Blue Shield strategies, to work out cost savings with drug makers.

Using services from a number of brand-new business to offer drug advantages might be difficult, however if the local health insurance company succeeds, others might follow, according to experts at Evercore ISI.

Some are more doubtful. The selloff “overstates” the effect of the choice, TD Cowen expert Charles Rhyee composed, including: “We don’t believe the BSCA decision will have a long-term impact on the PBM model.”

CVS verified its profits assistance for 2023 and stated the partial loss of the agreement would have an “immaterial impact” on the business’s long-lasting outlook.

Broken Incentives

Blue Shield of California invests about $4 billion a year on drugs, Markovich stated, and the business approximates it can conserve 10% to 15% of that through this brand-new design. Some of the cost savings will originate from eliminating rewards that prefer high-cost drugs over less costly options.

For example, he stated, the insurance company had a hard time to get CVS to cover a more economical variation of a prostate cancer drug called abiraterone that would cut the cost to $160 from about $3,000. “They initially refused and they kept refusing” for months, he stated. “It’s like pulling teeth to get that to happen.”

CVS gets generic drugs through an existing joint endeavor and medications need to satisfy particular requirements, a business agent stated in an e-mail. Some health prepares that purchased a brand-new generic drug maker called CivicaScript looked for to give those items through an outdoors drug store, and CVS is dealing with them to do it, the agent stated. Blue Shield of California is taking part in CivicaScript.

Markovich stated the insurance company’s 7,500 staff members would initially see the brand-new plan in 2024, and it will provide it to some customers who might be interested. In 2025, the modification will work throughout its line of work for industrial and federal government health insurance.

Profit Impact

The loss might damage CVS’s 2025 profits by 2 to 6 cents a share, the Evercore experts approximated. About half of the insurance company’s yearly drug invest is most likely to be kept by CVS in its specialized drug store company, they stated. 

“We look forward to providing care for Blue Shield of California’s members who require complex, specialty medications – as we have for nearly two decades,” a CVS representative stated in an e-mail.

Markovich stated CVS may have been a strong competitor if Blue Shield wished to continue with a conventional PBM, however he stated the business is going for a more comprehensive modification.

“This issue is a systemic one,” he stated. “All of the pharmacy benefits managers operate this way in this system, and they have no financial interest in changing it.”


News and digital media editor, writer, and communications specialist. Passionate about social justice, equity, and wellness. Covering the news, viewing it differently.

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