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#CaravanToCanada: Facing Insulin Prices 10X Higher in US, Group Heads Across Border

"We should not have to drive five hours to Canada to be able to afford #insulin!"


"The insulin pricing crisis will only be solved when everyone can access and afford insulin," said insulin4all advocate Allison Bailey. (Photo: 2C2KPhotography/flickr/cc)

A group of Minnesotans faced with "astronomical prices for insulin" in the U.S. recently crossed the border into Canada to obtain affordable access to the life-saving drug.

"We should not have to drive five hours to Canada to be able to afford #insulin!" said Quinn Nystrom, a diabetes advocate and one of those on the #CaravanToCanada Saturday.

In tweets over the weekend, Nystrom highlighted the price difference the five-hour drive would mean. Insulin costs 10 times more in the U.S. than in Canada. 

Minneapolis's KARE11 News reported on the caravan.

When the group arrived in Fort Frances, Ontario, they found a pharmacy within a few blocks and were quickly able to pick up everything they needed with no prescription.

"You can see it's the same company," [Travis] Paulson said, comparing two vials, both made by Novo Nordisk.

He purchased NovoRapid in Canada, which retails for about $30. NovoLog, which came from the United States, has a sticker price of about $300.

The caravan-goers' situation drew pity from one Canadian observer.

The road trip was part of the #insulin4all campaign, which laid out the problem those with Type 1 diabetes face. It noted the following:

  • Since the 1990s, the cost of insulin has increased over 1,200%, yet the cost of production for a vial of analog insulin is between $3.69 and $6.16.
  • Spending by patients with type 1 diabetes on insulin nearly doubled from 201 to 2016, increasing from $2900 to $5700.
  • One of every four patients with type 1 diabetes has had to ration their insulin due to cost. Many have died.

Nystrom has ideas about how to solve the crisis, as ThinkProgress reported:

First, she believes Congress must pass a transparency bill to force pharmaceutical companies to be open about their pricing practices. Several states have taken it upon themselves to pass such legislation. Oregon, for instance, signed a bill into law last year requiring drug makers to report the reasons for price increases, among other requirements.

Second, Nystrom said Congress should follow Minnesota's lead in advancing a federal emergency insulin act that allows someone without insurance to receive an emergency supply of insulin that is needed to survive.

Actions like the #CaravanToCanada, said Allison Bailey, U.S. advocacy manager for T1 International and insulin4all advocate, are "not a long-term solution."

"The insulin pricing crisis will only be solved when everyone can access and afford insulin," she said.

To make that happen, said political commentator Robert Reich, "We must allow the government to negotiate lower prices." 

"Amen," replied caravan participant Lija Greenseid.

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