Founding Year: 2003
Office Location: 5008 Peters Creek Parkway, Winston-Salem, NC 27127
Independently owned, Marley Drug was established in 2003 to offer accessible, safe, and cost-effective medication and pharmacy services in North Carolina. In 2011, Marley Drug expanded its reach and is now serving all 50 states, Washington D.C., and most US territories including Puerto Rico. With its Wholesale Price List and extended fills, Marley Drug is committed to improving the health status of its patients and the communities it serves while reducing overall healthcare costs.
Interview Excerpt: The Chief’s Digest had an interaction with Marley Drug, where we talked about the current landscape of drug pricing and pharmacy services in the US, and how Marley Drug aims to deliver better healthcare to its citizens.
What’s the story behind the inception of Marley Drug?
In May 2018, our company – Medicure Inc., a specialty pharmaceutical company, launched Zypitamag® (pitavastatin) tablets. Zypitamag is a new-generation statin and a pharmaceutical alternative to Livalo®. Entering the market with a valued therapy and at a much lower price point, one would assume would lead to quick adoption, but health insurance providers and their negotiators prevented this from happening.
We struggled to get health insurance coverage for Zypitamag, which is a shame because it has real clinical benefits for patients. There were times when we offered remarkably high rebates to Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs), who negotiate the coverage on behalf of health insurance companies, but we were still rejected, excluded from formularies, or relegated to very high tiers where the therapy would not be accessible to those who need it the most. The justification was that the PBMs would not see any monetary profit for themselves from our therapy due to our low overall cost, even though it would be a benefit for the health insurance companies and subsequently their clients.
Tired of the run-around and motivated to get Zypitamag to patients who could most benefit from its use, we decided to bypass the PBMs and other traditional channels and sell directly to Americans. With this goal in mind and also to offer other common lifesaving medication to the US population, we made a deal to purchase Marley Drug.
On December 16, 2020, Medicure purchased Marley Drug and has since been using it as a vehicle to offer Zypitamag at a cash price of just $1.15/day. This is ~90% less than the cost of any other branded product available through health insurance and is still profitable to Medicure.
This pharmacy purchase made Medicure one of the first manufacturers to sell medication directly to patients by removing the intermediaries who artificially inflate the cost of medication and, invariably, hinder access to lifesaving medication. At this point, we cannot articulate the exact amount of money we have saved the health insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid, but it is quite significant.
What are your offerings and capabilities? What role do they play in contributing to the health and welfare requirements of the public?
Marley Drug offers affordable FDA-approved medications with free home delivery to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and territories, such as Puerto Rico.
At Marley Drug, our pricing philosophy is quite simple. We offer wholesale prices – so you pay less. We price our medications based on what it costs us to buy them. This price is not determined by your insurance company nor by the PBMs who negotiate on behalf of these companies. This reduces the number of intermediaries who need to be compensated and passes the savings directly on to patients.
We offer free shipping across the US so there is no sticker shock when you check out with added shipping and handling fees. As we deliver across the US, we also appeal to those Americans who live in pharmacy deserts (vast areas of the US where there is no local pharmacy option). Are pharmacists have ~50 years of experience to offer to patients and we employ a US-based call center to help with ordering if you should need it. Patients can order online, over the phone, or by using our app. Moreover, we can request prescriptions on the patient’s behalf and will follow up promptly to ensure a smooth process.
On top of all these offerings, we have all the certifications required to be a trusted health partner. This includes – LegitScript and Pharmacy certificates. These are industry standards indicative of a trustworthy online pharmacy.
What makes Marley Drug stand out from the rest of your competition?
A key differentiating factor for Marley Drug, compared to other options, is that we are also a physical pharmacy that has been around for nearly 20 years. We have refined our skills and services gleaned from working one-on-one with walk-in customers and brought that to the national level. We offer the same services we have always provided but now for all Americans wherever they may live. This is not the case for most of our competitors who are breaking into the space without prior experience serving customers and all the nuances associated with that.
Other advantages include the following:
The ability to contact customer service when you need it. Marley Drug has been a patient-focused community pharmacy in Winston-Salem, NC for many years. We have dealt with customers calling us and also walking into our pharmacy. If you have questions, you can call us at (1-800-810-7790), and speak with our experienced staff or one of our pharmacists right away. We really focus on serving patients and their needs and are well-equipped to do so with the team that we have in place.
Marley Drug offers a Wholesale Price List. The Marley Drug Wholesale Price List provides many popular FDA-approved generic medications for one consistent price without the hassle of insurance and unexpected fees.
There are a few features that make the Marley Drug Wholesale Price List so unique:
● Our list is large – over 165 medications and all the associated strengths which work out to be >480 drugs.
● Our list is continually growing – we add medications to this list all the time.
● The longer the fill, the more a patient saves. A 1-month supply is $15, a 2-month supply is $20, a 3-month supply is $25, a 6-month supply is $37, a 9-month supply is $54, and a 1-year supply is $70 (which works out to less than $6/month).
● This list is ideal for customers on chronic care and complementary medications – if a patient has been taking medication for several years and the dose hasn’t changed then this list is a perfect match for them. They can get a long-term supply and save time and money.
● Longer Fills are better for patients: There is data from a survey of healthcare providers that shows this is better for patients in terms of convenience, adherence, and cost.
● Medications on the Marley Drug Wholesale Price List have a set price – this means no price fluctuations for patients.
Are there any challenges in catering to the healthcare needs of the population? How do you aim at offering a solution to them?
Healthcare is extremely expensive. Many of our customers invest a lot of their money into buying health insurance to cover these costs. One enormous challenge we face is educating patients on how drug pricing works, and why an option like Marley Drug can be a better solution for them than their traditional health insurance for prescription medication.
It’s very counterintuitive when talking to someone and explaining to them why their medication would be cheaper by forgoing their insurance and that they pay a lot of money for using their insurance. The reality is that in many instances, buying your medications from a pharmacy like Marley Drug, and paying cash, is a better price. Mainly because you have now eliminated all the markups that went into your insurance price for that medication.
There are several groups of patients in the U.S. that we can offer a better option to including those with:
● High deductible plans: 40% of people with private insurance were reported to be on high-deductible plans.
● Underinsured or no plans: In 2020, 8.6 percent of the population, or 28.0 million people, did not have health insurance at any point during the year.
● High cost-share plans: Drug benefit plans typically require a patient to pay a certain amount out-of-pocket for their prescription drugs. Higher-tier drugs increasingly use a percentage of drug cost to determine a patient’s cost share.
● Coverage gap plans: Most Medicare drug plans have a coverage gap (also called the “donut hole”), with most patients reaching their coverage limits well before the year ends.
● Non-covered or non-preferred plans: Many Americans report that their insurance plans sometimes don’t cover a drug they need – and nearly half the people with whom this happens say that they simply don’t fill the prescription.
Post the COVID-19 pandemic, how have your services and operations changed?
COVID has transformed our world in many ways. There has been a huge push towards ordering items online and a general increase in trust in the entire process.
When it comes to ordering medications online, however, that takes another level of trust. We’re dealing with confidential information and people’s health, so it’s important for customers to know that the pharmacy they choose to handle their medications is legitimate and trustworthy and has many years of experience.
The pandemic has validated and reinforced what we have always known and practiced, that the key to our operations is not only cost-effective medication but honest customer service. If anything, the pandemic has made us more motivated that the path we were always on is the right path.
Looking forward, what do you think will the impact of your services be on people’s health over the next couple of years?
We feel that our service will have a positive impact on the health and well-being of Americans.
Fundamentally, we are providing a cost-effective solution to access lifesaving medication for customers and their loved ones. Otherwise, many of our customers may have gone without their medication placing their health in jeopardy.
On top of saving money, we are also making the entire process of acquiring their medication seamless and with a human touch, when required. We are hoping our service will also minimize the stress and anxiety our customers may previously have had in acquiring their medication. We are hopefully reducing the anxiety associated with concerns such as – ‘Can I afford my medication this month?’, ‘Will I have enough medication on hand?’, ‘Do I have to travel to the next county or town to get my medication?’ and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
All in all, this goes back to our tagline which is also our mission – we want customers using Marley Drug to have a healthier pharmacy experience.
What are your plans for the future, and how do you hope to see your organization and team grow?
Our plans for the future entail focusing on our customers and offering them a healthier pharmacy experience. Some initiatives we will be launching in the very near future include:
● Expanding our drug offering on the Marley Drug website and offering more cost-effective prices.
● Offering valued over-the-counter (OTC) products on our website and, also, unique at-home test kits.
● We are also working to improve the user experience for our customers to make sure getting their medication is smooth and simple.
● We are working with other manufacturers who would like to use a similar marketing strategy in bringing their branded products to market, as we did with Zypitamag (pitavastatin).
● We’ve been putting a lot of effort and resources into building patient-friendly content for our customers so they can research information and get helpful tips from our website. This includes writing blogs and the launch of a new YouTube channel called ‘Ask Marley Drug’ where our pharmacists answer some of the most commonly asked questions about medications we offer.
● We are also in talks with several partners to bring their health solutions to customers by assisting them with national pharmacy and clinical services.
Currently owned by Medicure Inc (purchased in December 2020). Medicure is a pharmaceutical company focused on the development and commercialization of innovative and affordable therapeutics for the US market.
“Our pricing and personal service can benefit all Americans. Our customers make up the entire spectrum of the country. We service insured, uninsured and underinsured customers. The underinsured refers to those customers who may have healthcare coverage but it is not optimal for their healthcare needs. We also serve those Americans looking for a trusted and safe place to get their medication without any hassle.”