For Michael Rea, PharmD’07, what began as a goal to help one customer has turned into a mission to serve millions. After graduating from Creighton, Rea was working as a pharmacist in Kansas City when he met a customer who was struggling to pay for her medications.
“She had enough money for six of the medicines, and she asked me which of her [eight] medications were least important,” Rea says.
Rea believed all of her medications were equally important, so he spent more than six hours after his shift at the pharmacy navigating the system trying to find a solution.
He researched medications, pricing information, and therapeutic options and available alternatives. He compiled his research and made recommendations to his customer, who then consulted with her doctor and transferred her prescriptions to another pharmacy. Because of his work, Rea’s customer was able to pay for all of her prescriptions, and save $250.
“It changed her life and, in time, it has also changed mine,” Rea says.
Through his research, Rea found the prescription drug process difficult to navigate — even for a professional medical provider. He knew he could do more to help others.
“I knew I had to find a way to get the process out to all consumers in a way that could change their lives, especially for those who couldn’t afford their medications,” Rea says.
In 2008, while continuing his full-time work as a pharmacist, Rea founded Rx Savings Solutions and began doing similar consultations with customers until 2012.
The evolving and changing landscape of health care led Rea to understand how Rx Savings Solutions could benefit self-funded employers and health plans. Four years ago, Rea switched the direct-to-consumer model of Rx Savings Solutions to a model that sold its software to employers and health plans, which helped the company grow.
In 2014, Rx Savings Solutions saw success when it contracted with the state of Kansas and the BH Media Group, a Berkshire Hathaway company that operates more than 70 newspapers in 10 states, to provide prescription medication advice to their employees.
According to Rea, 2016 is set to be a “blockbuster year.” During the past year, Rx Savings Solutions has more than doubled its staff and revenue. The company employs 31 people, five of whom (including Rea) are Creighton graduates. Rea’s wife, Brandy Kopecky Rea, JD’07, serves as chief legal counsel. Other Creighton alumni with the company are Heather Green Epps, PharmD’07, clinical pharmacist; Douglas Besch, PharmD’07, chief operating officer; and Shahryar Qadri, BSCS’02, chief technology officer.
The overarching goal of the company is to allow people to be better stewards of their prescription drug costs. Possible cost-saving solutions could be as simple as switching pharmacies or buying a high-strength pill for the same price and cutting it in half. Rx Savings Solutions alerts its members to potential savings through text messages and emails.
“As Americans, we’re such savvy shoppers … but health care is different because of its complexity; it’s difficult to navigate,” Rea told the Kansas City Business Journal. “This is really the idea of people taking ownership and starting to become involved and engaged in the marketplace.”
Rea and his company have been cited and quoted in local and national media, including the Financial Times, Bloomberg Business and Business Week, as the rising cost of prescription drugs continues to be a major issue for many Americans. In a recent Consumer Reports poll, one-third of Americans surveyed said they were paying an average of $39 more out of pocket for their prescription medications, and 10 percent reported paying an extra $100 or more. Of those whose prescription drug costs went up, nearly one out of four said they had skipped filling a prescription due to cost.
“We are excited to be able to be saving millions of dollars of consumers’ money and allow them to lead better, healthier lives,” Rea says. “We’ve sat with people of this country as they make decisions about whether they pay rent, buy food or buy their medications. That’s not right, and we’re here to fix it.”