A pharmacy startup that’s raised $165 million in funding has found a new way to lower drug prices for patients paying with cash

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Pharmacy startup Blink Health has a new approach for how it provides discounts to patients paying for prescriptions in cash.
After its relationship with pharmacy benefit manager MedImpact soured and major pharmacies left the Blink network, Blink helped set up a new middleman to manage its relationships with pharmacies, called Blue Eagle.

For healthcare startup Blink Health, shaking up the prescription drug industry hasn’t gone as planned.

Two of the largest pharmaceutical chains in the US stopped working with Blink in 2017, and its relationship with its biggest business partner soured shortly after.

New York-based Blink, which provides prescription drug discounts to patients through a free app and has raised $165 million in venture funding, is now taking matters into its own hands.

Blink said on Wednesday it is creating an alternative to large pharmaceutical middlemen known as pharmacy benefit managers, which negotiate drug prices on behalf of health plans and employers. President Donald Trump in May called out the middlemen in the pharmaceutical industry as part of his plan to tackle high drug prices.

The new company, called Blue Eagle, is working in partnership with Blink to manage a network of pharmacies where Blink’s discounts can be used.

“If we were going to create an alternative to the prescription management industrial complex, we needed to create a system that worked for pharmacies, worked for patients, and worked for manufacturers,” said Blink CEO Geoffrey Chaiken.

In the US, patients are feeling the effect of higher drug prices. Health plans with high deductibles —the amount of money paid out of pocket before insurance kicks in — are leaving patients on the hook for close to the full price of a medication. It’s led to people paying as much as a mortgage payment for a monthly supply of the live-saving diabetes medication insulin, while others have turned to crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe to cover the cost. As of 2017, there were about 28 million Americans who didn’t have health insurance.

Patients are now looking for discounted cash rates as an alternative to the amount they’d pay under their insurance plan. That’s where companies like Blink come in.

When Blink launched in 2016, users paid for their prescription through the Blink app and received a card, which they could then bring to the pharmacy. The pharmacy would then ring up the card and give the user his or her prescription. At the time, that included more than 60,000 pharmacies. However, in March 2017, Walgreens withdrew itself from Blink’s network, meaning patients couldn’t use the pre-paid prescriptions at Walgreens pharmacies. In October 2017, CVS pharmacies departed from the Blink network as well.

Blink Health is able to offer discounts by setting up a list of prices with pharmacies that it agrees to pay when a patient fills their prescription using a Blink card. That list of prices and the network of pharmacies that have agreed to it are managed by a pharmacy benefit manager.

But with the departure of the two …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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