High prices of insulin drive Americans to buy from Canada

US insulin prices are high, verging on catastrophic. Despite being a vital drug for more than 7.4 million Americans, many are being priced out of the market. Some have even died because they cannot access the medicine they need. 

Now, though, US patients are changing tack. Many are ditching the American healthcare system (and black market dealers) and turning to Canadian pharmacies where prices can be 90 per cent cheaper. 

Former presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders tweeted about the situation in 2019. Holding up a vial of insulin, he said:-

“This vial of insulin costs just $6 to manufacture.

At this pharmacy in Windsor, Ontario, it can be purchased for $32. Twenty minutes away, in Detroit, the same exact vial costs $340.

It is time for a government that works for the American people, not drug companies profits.”

Why is insulin expensive in the US?

Sensational headlines and disparities in prices cause outrage. However, there are reasons why Americans pay more for diabetes medications and devices, such as Basaglar, Kwikpen, Savanna, Eliquis and Humira. 

The primary reason is the banning of generic competition. The US is home to just three insulin manufacturers – Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi – and they all have patents and exclusivity because of crony arrangements with the US government. As a result, other companies cannot enter the market and offer lower prices. 

Another reason for high prices is the complex supply chain. Insulin must pass through several intermediaries before it reaches the patient. Wholesales, pharmacy benefit managers, insurers, and pharmacy operators all take a cut, passing higher final costs to the consumer. 

Lastly, the lack of price regulation plays a role. Countries like Canada specify how much companies can charge for a drug, whereas the US lets the market determine pricing. When authorities deliberately restrict who can sell insulin, cartels form, and the price rises. 

How are Americans coping with the high price of insulin? 

Americans are experimenting with various strategies to cope with the high price of insulin. For instance, many uninsured Floridians buy insulin from Canada. Online Canadian pharmacies offer generic insulin for a fraction of the US price. 

Technically, it is illegal to buy insulin from Canada from most of the US. However, the FDA’s website says it “does not object” to patients hopping over the border, buying a three-month supply of the essential hormone, and returning to American soil. 

Texans buying insulin from Canada are joining caravans to get insulin. These organised events involve teaming up with other patients, driving across the border to Canada, and getting insulin from Canadian pharmacies in person. Prices are often considerably cheaper – $30 per vial instead of $300. 

More Americans are also advocating for policy changes. Advocacy groups are launching campaigns to demand lower prices and break the state-corporate control of the pricing system. For example, T1International is a global organisation that fights for affordable and accessible diabetes care. They have launched a petition calling on Congress to investigate the price of insulin and hold drug companies accountable.

Lastly, Americans are applying for assistance programs run by drug companies, non-profits, and the government. For example, Eli Lilly has a program that provides insulin for $35 per month for eligible patients. However, it is highly restricted, and only a few patients qualify. 

What would lower insulin prices in the US? 

Insulin prices are extraordinarily high in the US. According to data from World Population Review, the average cost of a unit of the hormone is $98.70. The second-place country is Chile at $21.48, with Mexico coming in third at $16.48. The unit price in Canada is just $12, and other developed countries, like Italy, charge only $10.03. 

The reason for high US insulin prices is political, not economic. The US has the same technological capability as other countries to lower costs but cannot because of corporate greed and political lobbying. 

Several policy changes could change the situation overnight. For instance, US officials could allow generic competition. With more drug companies entering the market, the supply would increase, and prices would drop. Bio-similar products could replace patented brand formulations, helping millions access affordable healthcare without stepping on existing patents. Many European countries already approve of these, but the US government does not. 

US officials could also introduce legislation to simplify the supply chain. Reducing or cutting out middlemen could reduce markups and help to bring down prices further. Some states already require supply chain firms to disclose their rebates and commissions to consumers. Rolling this policy out nationally would incentivise political change by showing consumers the waste inherent in the system.

The US could also regulate the price of insulin. Policymakers could maintain the cartel but cap prices at a level that would guarantee a profit. Progressively lowering the price over time would force manufacturers to invest in more efficient production processes. 

Lastly, officials could also let more Americans import drugs from overseas. For example, Florida passed a law allowing large batches of drugs to be legally imported from Canada into the state, and Colorado capped insulin costs at $100 per month for eligible patients.

Getting insulin from Canada

The incentive to buy insulin from Canada is tremendous because people want to save money. Prices are lower for diabetes-related items across the board, including the Lantus Solostar Pen, insulin, and devices people need to monitor blood glucose levels. 

Fortunately, options to do this legally are opening up. Caravans are leaving for the US border regularly, and people are buying several months’ supply. Canadian online pharmacies are also shipping supplies to American homes in some states.

Major Meds is an excellent example of how Canadian pharmacies are catering to insulin-dependent Americans. You can now get various forms of insulin online, including:-

Our services are reliable, friendly, and fully regulated by the Canadian authorities. Try us today.

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