Netflix has been putting out some good documentary series lately.
I just finished watching Dirty Money and episode 3, Drug Short, is all about prescription drugs. While it focuses more on Valeant and some smaller drugs, it opened my eyes to the true size and scope of the pharmaceutical industry.
There are so many expensive prescription drugs that people simply cannot live without.
For example, Lipitor (brand name for atorvastatin) is a statin used to treat high cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Those conditions can lead to strokes, heart attacks, and other heart and blood vessel issues.
Statins are a huge business – we're talking billions and billions of dollars ($23.7 billion in 2004 to $12.2 billion in 2018, the slide mostly due to generics).
They're not alone. As patents expire and name brand drugs are replaced with identical cheaper generics, costs will go down.
And here comes the kicker – they can go down even further.
Blink Health was founded in 2015 by Geoffrey and Matthew Chaiken. Geoffrey previous founded Marinus Pharmaceuticals (MRNS), a specialty pharma company that developed treatments for epilepsy. He was also once at Brave Warrior Advisors, an investment firmw here he helped manage $3 billion. Matthew Chaiken was previously an “investment professional” at Marble Arch Investments, a NY based firm.
Blink Health's value proposition is pretty simple – they negotiate with pharmacies to lower the price of generic drugs for their members. Membership is free.
This makes a lot of sense for people who have high deductible health insurance plans (where they pay out of pocket up to a certain dollar amount) or insurance plans that doesn't cover prescription drugs. If you pay out of pocket, you know exactly how much your prescriptions cost.
As an individual, you don't have much pricing power. Insurance companies are able to negotiate deals because they have many policyholders who will buy those same drugs. If you're solo, it's hard.
That's where a company like Blink Health comes in. They do the negotiation ahead of time and you just need to sign up to get access. Then you buy the prescription online, go to an in-network pharmacy (there are tens of thousands), show your card and pick up your prescription. When membership is free, what is the risk?
Blink Health is free to you but not to the pharmacies. They make their money by getting a commission on the sale. It doesn't add to your costs (which you know up front so you can compare them accurately) so it's a win win.
How Much Can You Save?
What's interesting about prescription drugs prices is that there's absolutely no regulation on price. Drug prices are so opaque, especially if you aren't on an insurance plan that covers it (and would've negotiated on your behalf), that you could pay different prices at different pharmacies that are right next to each other. You would have no idea.
Blink Health has negotiated prices on 15,000 medications. You have to double check the form, dosage and quantity to match your prescription but they have almost all the permutations. You pay online and then show up at the pharmacy. It's super simple.
Here are the prices of some popular dispensed prescriptions and how much they cost on Blink Health (7/3/2018):
|Prescription Drug||BlinkHealth Price|
|Levothyroxine (Synthroid, Unithroid, Levoxyl, Levothroid)||$16.52|
|Lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril)||$3.67|
|Hydrocodone/Acetaminophen (Vicodin, Norco, Xodol)||$10.03|
To be perfectly honest, I don't take any of those drugs so I don't know dosages, pill counts, etc. But I invite you to check your prescription to see what you would pay through Blink Health versus what you're paying for now.
Nothing. Membership is free.
Here's a video explaining how it works:
It's available at over 40,000 pharmacies nationwide and when we looked, we found that it included a lot of the local grocery stores (Giant, Safeway, Walmart, Wegmans, Costco) as well as many of the smaller independent pharmacies.
You can use their pharmacy search tool to see which pharmacies are included. Chances are it includes the one you're already using or one that's nearby.
When was the last time your pharmacy ran a promotion? Umm… never.
They currently have a few.
First, you get $10 off your first prescription. Instant $10 savings just for your time.
Last year, they gave away type 2 diabetes prescriptions for a whole year. This promotion is no longer active but I am sharing it with you to give you an idea of the types of promotions they run. They gave away the three most prescribed type 2 diabetes prescriptions for free for a year. This included Metformin, Glipizide, and Pioglitazone. Metformin has an average retail price of $28.63, Glipizide has an average retail price of $21.97, and Pioglitazone has an average retail price of $294.74.
The dosages included were:
- metformin hcl – tablets in 500 MG, 850 MG, and 1000 MG
- pioglitazone hcl – tablets in 15 MG, 30 MG, and 45 MG
- glipizidehcl – tablets in 5 MG and 10 MG
I look forward to seeing what new promotions they have in store.