Former OptumRx CEO launches startup Waltz Health with $35M, promising to lower drug costs

Former OptumRx CEO launches startup Waltz Health with $35M, promising to lower drug costs

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As many people struggle to afford medications, some have advocated for the government to step in to negotiate prices. But a new company led by the former CEO of pharmacy benefit manager OptumRx is promising to lower drug costs by working with industry insiders across the drug supply chain.

Waltz Health, which was co-founded by veteran industry executive Mark Thierer, announced it officially launched Tuesday with $35.4 million in Series A funding led by GV (formerly Google Ventures). Define Ventures, Echo Health Ventures, Blue Venture Fund, Byers Capital, Twine Ventures and other healthcare executives also contributed, according to the company.

PBMs have faced significant scrutiny for their perceived role in widely ranging drug pricing, and the sticker shock many consumers face at the pharmacy counter. Opaque pricing practices have drawn criticism even from within the industry, with some smaller PBMs positioning themselves as doing things differently.

But Waltz Health, which was launched by Mark Thierer and his son Jon Thierer—the company’s co-founder and vice president of product—is taking the approach of bringing together seasoned industry executives and working with existing players to combat rising drug prices. The new digital health company is developing what it says will be smarter, technology-enabled ways to price, distribute and prescribe medications.

“We are working with the existing drug supply chain structure to realign incentives, lower prescription drug prices and give power back to healthcare consumers,” said Mark Thierer in a statement. “Our mission begins with giving consumers visibility into available programs to save money on life-saving medications by partnering with their pharmacies. Our strategy is to deliver software-driven solutions to solve the biggest pharmaceutical challenges consumers and payers face.”

The company will rely on a technology team and insider knowledge of the PBM market to help deliver savings to consumers, according to Thierer. It’s first application to launch is Marketplace Search, a white-labeled, online search engine that retail pharmacies will be able to make available to their customers. The application isn’t live with any pharmacies yet, but the company said it plans to announce several partnerships with major pharmacy chains this year.

Drawing from a curated mix of drug-discount data sources, the search engine powered by artificial intelligence will analyze and display the most relevant and appropriate drug prices available to consumers for specific drugs, according to Waltz Health. For retail pharmacies, Marketplace Search will allow them to enhance their customer experience and build customer loyalty, the company said.

“Waltz Health has created a more transparent and patient-centric approach to paying for prescription medications. Few people understand the complex dynamics of this healthcare sector better than CEO Mark Thierer and the executive team,” said Ben Robbins, venture partner at GV in a statement. “We believe the company’s core leadership and technology-driven approach to lower prescription costs will significantly impact the prescription care market, and we’re proud to be early investors.”

Photo: z_wei, Getty Images

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