Drug Runs
June 17, 2019

Lija Greenseid, "a rule-abiding Minnesota mom," just led a small caravan of Americas to Canada to buy analog insulin for her 13-year-old daughter, and "she and five other Americans paid about $1,200 for drugs that would have cost them $12,000 in the United States," The Washington Post reports. As other people dealing with Type 1 diabetes and the rapidly rising price of insulin hear about her journeys north of the border, the caravan is growing — the next one will be on a chartered bus.

These drug runs to Canada — where you can buy analog insulin without a prescription, unlike in the U.S. — may be illegal. "But the organizers of the caravan — their word, a nod to the migrants traveling in groups through Mexico to the U.S. border — are speaking out about their trip because they want Americans to see how drug prices push ordinary people to extremes," the Post reports.

Canadians get the caravan reference, too. While many of them were supportive of the American caravan, others expressed concern about the supplies of Canadian insulin. "We heard a lot of comments like, 'Canada needs to put up a wall,'" said caravaner Nicole Smith-Holt. "I was like, 'Oh, come on.'"

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) lobbying group blamed insurance companies for the cost of insulin, which doubled in the U.S. between 2012 and 2016, saying drug companies are increasingly offering rebates on insulin that aren't reaching patients.

Barry Power, the Canadian Pharmacists Association's director of therapeutic content, told the Post that the caravans and other cross-border drug purchasers haven't yet affected Canada's insulin supply. Canada keeps insulin prices low through a combination of price caps, negotiations with drug manufactures, and other policy, he added. "This is something the U.S. could do." Learn more at The Washington Post, or in the New York Times video op-ed below. Peter Weber

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