One in four patients with diabetes ration their insulin because it’s so expensive—and some have died because of it. Since the 1990s, the cost of some types of insulin has increased by nearly 1,200%. This is why Caravan to Canada organizes trips across the northern border, where diabetes patients can buy insulin for less.
In June 2019, approximately 20 people made the roughly 800-mile trip from Minneapolis to Ontario to buy insulin. One of the caravan members, Nicole Smith-Holt, says she lost her son to diabetes.
“Alex smith, my son, he was a Type 1 diabetic,” she explained. “He was diagnosed with he was just turning 24 in 2015 and he passed away in June of 2017 of diabetic ketoacidosis as a result of rationing his insulin.”
Even though it only costs roughly $3.69 to $6.16 to make a vial of insulin, purchasing one from a U.S. pharmacy can cost more than $200. Insurance does lower costs for some but those without insurance or patients who need a specific type of insulin can be stuck spending thousands of dollars a year.
According to one of the Caravan to Canada members, the group as a whole saved approximately $15,000 to $20,000 on Canadian insulin. Canadian pharmacies do not require a prescription to buy insulin but many of the caravan members bring one anyway, so they can prove to border services they don’t plan to sell the drug.