He's in! 'Shark Tank' star Cuban launches generics maker promising 'radically' low-cost drugs

Mark Cuban's new company plans to disclose the cost of development and distribution for each of its drugs and then add a 15% margin to land on a wholesale price. (Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons)

Billionaire investor Mark Cuban is famous for critiquing startup plans on the hit TV series “Shark Tank,” often dismissing would-be entrepreneurs with the show’s famous line, “I’m out.” But Cuban has also been a longtime critic of high health costs—and now he’s jumping in to offer one solution.

Cuban has launched a new company, Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drugs, which has a plan to offer low-cost rivals to overpriced generic drugs. The company is launching with one product: albendazole, an antiparasitic. It will charge $20 per tablet, a steep discount to its current average cash price of $225, according to the company’s website.

Cuban’s plan is to disclose the cost of development and distribution for each of its products and then add a 15% margin to land on a wholesale price. “This makes sure we remain viable and profitable. There are no hidden costs, no middlemen, no rebates only available to insurance companies,” says the website, which calls the approach “radically transparent.”

Cuban’s company did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Fierce Pharma.

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Mark Cuban Cost Plus plans to be marketing more than 100 additional drugs by the end of 2021, it says. It’s building a manufacturing facility in Dallas that it hopes to open by 2022.

As a TV star and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Cuban might not seem like a natural healthcare disruptor, but in recent years, he’s made bringing health costs down a personal mission. He is a council member for United States of Care, a nonprofit that advocates for equitable access to healthcare.

In 2019, Cuban appeared in a televised interview with United States of Care co-founder Andy Slavitt, during which he griped that healthcare in America “is so politically charged that people aren't trying to solve problems. They're trying to sell what's most politically expedient for them," resulting in a system that doesn't ask the question, 'How do we make people the healthiest and then pay for that?'"

Cuban cited high drug prices as an example and proposed creating a “club kind of like Costco,” where members would receive drugs “at cost plus 15%."

RELATED: Novartis partners with Civica Rx to ease hospital shortages for 6 high-demand generic injectables

Cuban is now bringing that vision for low-cost drugs to life, but he’s far from alone in his mission.

In 2018, five U.S. health systems representing more than 450 hospitals launched a nonprofit generic drugmaker, Civica Rx. It started with 14 hospital-administered drugs that are typically in short supply and has since struck a series of deals to add to its offerings.

Most recently, Civica Rx partnered with Novartis to increase the supply of six generic injectable drugs. They include blood thinners, blood pressure meds and other drugs that are needed in operating rooms.

And one startup, EQRx, is setting its sights on pricey biologics, aiming to create low-cost alternatives to pricey drugs that are on the market. EQRx, a 2020 Fierce 15 winner, raised $500 million in a series B funding last week, which it will use to develop four cancer drugs currently in phase 3 testing, it said.