Employees buy drugs for zero

Dr. Kalies

As America agonizes about how to adapt to the unending complexities of Obamacare, a startup company from Oshkosh, Wisconsin has cracked through with elegant simplicity on another piece of real reform, transparency for ordering drugs.

BidRx has done for drug purchasing what Amazon did for purchasing books, that is to make it easy to understand and easy to order.

Here’s how it works. My company signs up for Bid RX services and agrees to pay a monthly fee per life in our self-insured health plan. Employee sits down with his or her primary care doctor and they decide on a statin regimen to lower cholesterol.

Lipitor, the statin made well know through a massive Pfizer ad budget, pops to mind of patient and doctor. They pull up the BidRx screen with patient and health plan information pre-loaded. It lists Lipitor at $535.74 per month. Ouch.

But the site also displays all the statin generics for Lipitor, with Simvastatin at the top of the list. It has been tested for equivalency for most patients. Price delivered to your mail box the next day: $7.37 for a month’s supply.

A range of pharmacies had bid through the BidRx system to sell at that price. The competition is among the retailers.

It’s such a good deal that they agree to go with the generic. Doctor punches button, and order goes to pharmacy for next-day delivery.

In some cases, employers offer a $10 coupon with each drug order, so employee pays zero. Employer, which has just saved major dollars, is billed for the $7.37.

Founder, Ralph Kalies, who holds a PhD in pharmacology, said, “If you shop wisely, you (the employee) can almost always buy your drugs for zero.”
BidRx now serves 2.5 million employees and is growing fast. The company estimates that it can lower an employer’s drug costs by 40% to 60%. I asked Kalies to pull up a specialty drug for arthritis, for which we were paying $7000 per month for an employee. One retailer offered to fulfill that order for $518.54 per month.

“It’s a very disruptive technology,” said Kalies.

That technology is what is known in other circles as a real marketplace. About time.

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