Medical care in America can be expensive, especially for those without health insurance. With 23% of people owing thousands of dollars in medical debt and over 31 million Americans uninsured, a financial barrier to access medicines exists, leaving people without the medicines they need.
This phenomenon is well illustrated by the American insulin crisis. Insulin, a life-sustaining hormone for people with diabetes, can range from $175 to $300 for a single vial, with prices increasing by up to 15% annually. Insulin-dependent diabetics cannot survive without insulin: a lack of the hormone leads to diabetic ketoacidosis, a life-threatening condition in which the blood becomes abnormally acidic, leading to organ failure and eventual death. However, with insulin prices soaring, many diabetics are turning to insulin rationing: intentionally taking a lower dose than prescribed to save money. Four people died while rationing their insulin in 2017, according to the Rightcare Alliance. Nine deaths followed over the next two years.
While many people, both citizens and celebrities, have criticized the rising cost of healthcare in America, few have taken action as notable as Mark Cuban. The American billionaire and media personality launched Cost Plus Drugs, an online pharmacy aimed at expanding access to medicines at lower prices, in January 2022.
Looking at the site’s pricing, you might think it’s too good to be true: at least, that’s what TikTok user @lookawaypls0 thought.
@lookawaypls0 Costplusdrugs – @Mark Cuban Let’s see how it goes! #Medication #Contraception #Insurance #MadewithKAContest ♬ Original sound – lookawaypls0
In a viral video posted June 8, TikToker shared, “I’m going to try Mark Cuban’s pharmacy because I no longer have insurance and still need to order my birth control.”
She continues, pointing out the medications she takes and comparing the prices at other pharmacies to Cost Plus: “Typically it’s $220 without insurance. His pharmacy charges only $9. It sounds way too good to be true, which means it usually is, but I’ll try, so wish me luck.”
In a follow-up video, the creator shared that she was able to order a 3-month supply of birth control for a total of $35 and paid $5 for shipping, though she hasn’t received the drugs yet.
The first video has been viewed 4.4 million times and sparked debate about the ethics of drug pricing. Commentators were both pleased with the cheap prices and disappointed with the state of America’s healthcare system.
One commenter said: “It’s a shame that affordable medicine is seen as too good to be true. We have to do better as a country.”
Another said: “We’re conditioned that those sky-high prices were normal. Other countries don’t charge as much for their drugs.”
The Daily Dot has reached out to @lookawaypls0 via TikTok comment and Cost Plus Drugs via press email for comment on this story.
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*Initial publication: June 10, 2022 2:41 pm CDT
Victoria Gagliardo Silver
Victoria Gagliardo-Silver is deputy news editor at the Daily Dot. You can find her byline in Vice, Teen Vogue, and The Independent, among others.
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