Friday, 24 May 2019

Americans driving to Canada for cheaper insulin as prices skyrocket – The Independent

As insulin prices soar to new heights, some Americans have decided to cross the Canadian border to obtain cheaper medication.

People from Minnesota who are part of the #Insulin4All initiative organised a “Caravan to Canada”, driving five hours to purchase insulin for $30 (£23) a vial rather than the $300 they would pay in the US.

Nicole Smith-Holt, whose son Alec Raeshawn Smith had type 1 diabetes and died as he could not afford insulin after becoming too old to use his parents’ insurance, told The Independent she accompanied the group in his memory.

She said: “My trip to Canada was in memory of Alec. If I had known that it was perfectly legal to purchase and bring back to the US, I would have made the trip two years ago when he had no insurance and was facing a bill of $1,300 (£1,000) a month for insulin and supplies.”

Insulin, a hormone type 1 diabetics need to survive, is what regulates blood sugar and converts glucose to a form of usable energy for the human body.

Quinn Nystrom, one of the women involved with Caravan to Canada, told CBC: “I almost felt walking out of that pharmacy like I was robbing the pharmacy. I just couldn’t believe it.”

On their journey, Ms Nystrom was concerned about Border Patrol agents confiscating her prescription or the bottles of insulin she and the others involved had obtained, but the group ran into no problems.

Insulin prices in the US have skyrocketed, but the phenomenon does not exist in Canada where the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board restricts how much a company can charge for patented medicines.

Currently there are 26 #Insulin4all state chapters who serve as “volunteer grassroots advocates”  taking action at the state and federal levels.

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Ms Holt-Smith added: “A trip to any other country to make that purchase would have saved his life and would have been completely affordable and absolutely legal. Unfortunately I was under the impression that it was not legal and it would be confiscated.

“I would like to let people know that this is an option, if they can’t afford their life-sustaining medications here in the US and if they have a passport and the ability to travel outside the US they should consider this.”

She said she believed her son would have survived if the US market were better regulated.