‘Shark Tank’ recap: Doctor with virus-fighting supplement isn’t immune to criticism

Matthew Wilson

Special to USA TODAY

Published 10: 01 PM EST Nov 3, 2019

On Sunday’s “Shark Tank,” a physician was in need of treatment after he felt the wrath of two angry sharks. 

Asking for $125,000 for 5% percent of his company, Sarath Malepati is the inventor of the EZC Pak, a five-day immune support pack made of echinacea, zinc and vitamin C. EZC Pak is a supplement that’s supposed to boost the immune system and fight viruses. 

As a general surgeon, Malepati said he has noticed increased overuse of antibiotics, which he said  have no effect on viruses and can turn bacteria into antibiotic-resistant superbugs. 

“Over the last 10 years, I’ve been dealing with a lot of complex infections,” Malepati said. “In the beginning, these infections we used to be able to treat with antibiotics. Now the antibiotics don’t work.”

According to Malepati, the cause is rooted in consumer-driven health care, which irked shark Mark Cuban, who was critical of his product.  

“That is so wrong in every which way,” Cuban said. “I know family history and what happened in the past is more indicative of what is going to happen to your future than almost anything. So knowing information about yourself is critical.” 

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Malepati disagreed with Cuban’s assessment: “I don’t see how any of this is relevant to the patient walking in and requesting antibiotics and walking out with it.”

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Malepati and Cuban continued to trade barbs. “You said part of the problem we’re facing in America today is a consumer-driven health care,” Cuban said. “So you think it’s a bad thing that consumers have more information about their health?”

Malepati clarified his statement, saying he thinks products are marketed to consumers who may not have adequate health literacy to determine whether or not they are effective

Holding up the EZC Pak, Cuban agreed: “That’s why this (expletive) gets sold. Because that’s why there’s tons of these out there.”

Shark Robert Herjavec came to Malepati’s defense: “I don’t think that’s fair, Mark. I think the way he said it is fair.”

But it was obvious even as Malepati continued his pitch, his thoughts were still on Cuban. He drew the anger of shark Lori Greiner, a big zinc advocate, by ignoring her.  

“Why are you ignoring what I’m saying? That’s odd to me. I am talking to you, and you’re looking over at Mark,” Greiner said. “I was the customer. I’ve been taking zinc for years. I’m a believer in this. I am the one talking about antibiotic resistance and how important it is. But the fact that when I talk to you, you don’t even look at me – I’m out.” 

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Offended, Greiner cut off fellow shark Kevin O’Leary, who was more interested in the company’s sales than the drama unfolding in the tank. Malepati tried to apologize to her, but she wasn’t ready to forgive. 

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“As a woman in business, I think it’s very important for women to speak up for themselves and to stand up for themselves in a respectful way,” Greiner said. “I looked right at you – maybe you were shaken by what Mark said, I don’t know. But what I do know is when you came out here, you were looking at everybody else, not really me. I just sense some chauvinism here.”

But guest shark Daniel Lubetzky thought Malepati didn’t have an issue with women, he had an issue with Cuban. The two continued to argue, leading Herjavec to interject: “Why are you poking the bear?”

Despite the rocky pitch, O’Leary decided to make Malepati an offer, in part because of the company’s $1.2 million in sales for the past year with 80% margins. His offer was $125,000 for a 5% stake, with a royalty of 60 cents per unit in perpetuity. 

Malepati countered with $125,000 for 5% but a $1 royalty per unit for 36 months. The two finally decided on a royalty of $1 per unit until O’Leary made $450,000. 

“All right, Doctor,” O’Leary said shaking Malepati’s hand. “Maybe it wasn’t the most pleasant journey.”

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