Mark Cuban Just Shared a Really Good Idea, But at the Worst Possible Time

If you’ve had good news to share lately, it’s been a frustrating time

It’s been hard to get anyone to pay attention to much besides the election–and the attempts to overturn it, and the insurrection, and the second impeachment, and the inauguration… It sucked all the oxygen out of the media ecosystem.

I suppose this was actually good news for people with bad news–scandal, disappointing numbers, for example–since they could release things with the reasonable hope that nobody would notice.

But, it also meant it was hard to get attention for things that deserve attention. And that brings us to Mark Cuban.

There’s no scandal involved; this is about a brilliant new venture he’s involved with. Last week, Cuban tweeted about one of his new companies: Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company, which is being billed as a generic drug company in which the prime value proposition is “radical transparency” about how it prices its drugs.

My colleague Jeff Haden wrote about its details earlier, but in a nutshell, Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company says it will make generic versions of expensive drugs, and sell them on a cost-plus basis rather than whatever the market might otherwise bear: 15 percent above what it costs to manufacture, distribute and market the drugs.

By the end of 2021, the company says it plans to have 100 different drugs on the market.

The first drug is albendazole, which is used to treat hookworm — a condition caused by a worm parasite, “with the most serious effect being blood loss that can lead to anemia, protein loss, cognitive disabilities and stunted growth in children,” according to a Baylor College of Medicine statement on the company’s plans.

Can you imagine if other consumer companies followed this business model?

Imagine if car companies promised to sell you cars at whatever it cost to build them plus a percentage? If airlines did? It’s a more common pricing strategy in government contracts, for example, which is one reason why this idea sounds intriguing.

There’s also the fact that heath care costs are a very significant worry for most Americans. In fact, medical debt is by far the most common reason why 500,000 American families file for bankruptcy protection each year according to a 2019 study.

In terms of drug costs alone, Canadian and British people spend about $884 per year on prescriptions and associated medical costs; in the U.S. it’s more like $1,397.

All of which leads me to conclude that perhaps it would have been for Cuban and his company to wait another month before announcing, when all of the other distractions might have died down a bit.

I mean, the entire point of calling it The Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company is to garner attention, right? Otherwise, call it something generic and pharmaceuticallish–I don’t know, maybe Healthnovia. Or Drugtopia. We could brainstorm all day.

Or else, even stick with the original name: Osh’s Affordable Pharmaceuticals, named after its original CEO and founder, Alex Oshmyansky, a doctor and PhD in mathematics who got Cuban first involved with a cold email pitch in 2018.

Look, I’m not going to suggest I know better than Cuban how to handle his businesses. He’s on Shark Tank; I watch Shark Tank.

He’s a multibillionaire and a household name. I’m not.

And in fairness, he has been talking about the company a bit — mentioned it during a podcast in November, for example — but it got a flurry of attention after the announcement and his tweet on January 13. 

But if this article — written after the inauguration, you might notice — is the first place you’re hearing about Cuban’s new drug company, then perhaps the fact that it was historically hard to get attention for any great idea a week or two ago might have something to do with it.

Keep that in mind next time you have some good news to share — or maybe even more importantly, if you ever have bad news to bury.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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