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A ‘Caravan’ of Desperate Americans Are Driving to Canada for Cheaper Insulin

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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.View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Quinn Nystrom@QuinnNystrom

SUCCESS! -5-hour road trip. -Insulin purchased where NO prescription was needed! 1 vial of Novolog in the USA = 10 vials of NovoRapid in Canada =6 happy & grateful ppl w/type 1 diabetes & T1 Mom’s #CaravanToCanada #insulin4all #MNinsulin4all3057:09 AM – May 5, 2019124 people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacyView image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Quinn Nystrom@QuinnNystrom

A 5 hr road trip & this is the difference in $ for the same product (they just change the name). Where have we gone wrong America?!? We should be ashamed as a country that this is a solvable issue, and nothing has been done to make it more affordable. #insulin4all #MNinsulin4all892:47 AM – May 6, 201956 people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacy

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.

Chris Houston@chris_m_h

Americans are forming a caravan to travel to Canada to buy affordable insulin.

You are very welcome.

I’m sorry that you need to do this.#CaravanToCanada #insulin4allQuinn Nystrom@QuinnNystromRest stop for #CaravanToCanada where we met up with the other cars ! @theinsulintype had tasty low-carbs snacks to share! Diabetes sucks to have, but the friendships you make are lifelong! #MNinsulin4all #insulin4all175:31 AM – May 5, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacySee Chris Houston’s other Tweets

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.

Allison Bailey@MsAllisonBailey · May 8, 2019

Our @t1international @MNinsulin4all & @AZinsulin4all Chapters have both recently crossed U.S. borders to buy cheaper insulin in Canada & Mexico. This is, of course, not a long-term solution, as this sort of travel is not an option for many patients. #insulin4all

Allison Bailey@MsAllisonBailey

The insulin pricing crisis will only be solved when everyone can access and afford insulin. #insulin4all means ALL. And we will only achieve that when every patient in the U.S. can go to their local pharmacy and get the insulin they need for a reasonable price.245:20 AM – May 8, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacySee Allison Bailey’s other Tweets

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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