CVS Caremark leader jabs Cost Plus Drugs; Mark Cuban responds

David Joyner, executive vice president of CVS Health and president of CVS Caremark, called out Mark Cuban's drug company in a paid op-ed Fortune published April 3. 

Mr. Joyner, who leads CVS' pharmacy segment, defended pharmacy benefit managers — an industry the FTC is investigating regarding business practices that affect drug prices and access. CVS Caremark is the nation's largest PBM; it accounted for 33% of the market share in 2022. 

"Healthcare is complex, and so is the pharmacy landscape," Mr. Joyner wrote. "That leads to a lot of lazy takes by people who mean well but don't necessarily understand how to create the changes we need."

He said Mr. Cuban "has an emerging side hustle as a pharmacy expert" and the billionaire's company, Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Co., mainly focuses on an already solved problem: generic drug prices.

"The reality is, the Cost Plus offering is neither novel nor unique — it is a generic sourcing business that is 10 years too late," he said. "What's more, it often lacks a consistent supply of products and regularly stocks treatments with short expiration dates, failing to offer the comprehensive and reliable service needed to deliver high-quality pharmacy benefits to a large patient population."

Others have questioned the disruptive status of Cost Plus Drugs, critiquing the startup for offering more generics than branded medications and suffering from supply chain issues

About two years after the business launched, Cost Plus Drugs now sells hundreds of generics and 21 brand-name therapies, partners with hundreds of independent and grocery chain pharmacies and manufactures drugs for some hospitals.

Mr. Joyner said CVS Caremark, the nation's largest buyer of pharmaceuticals in the U.S., welcomes competition and uses its power to sell drugs at predictable, transparent prices. 

Mr. Cuban disagrees. 

"We hope they realize that every time their PBM underpays a pharmacy for a script, starts a pharmacy audit because a patient didn't pick up a script, charges a DIR [direct and indirect remuneration] fee, or charges a fee when a discount card is used, they are saying, 'F you' to every independent pharmacy entrepreneur and doing their best to kill their American dream," Mr. Cuban told Becker's in response to the op-ed. 

About CVS Caremark, he said, "You have done an amazing job of reducing the number of independent pharmacies that provide a level of care and take an amount of responsibility for their patients that makes every community healthier and stronger."

Mr. Joyner's commentary was submitted by CVS Health as part of the company's sponsorship of Fortune Well.

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