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In Canada, insulin costs 90 percent less than in the US

Written by Diane Archer

Need insulin? More than seven million Americans with diabetes depend on insulin to live. But, many of them can no longer afford the US price. When possible, they travel across the border to Canada where the Washington Post reports they can get insulin for 90 percent less than in the US.

The Health Care Cost Institute reports that between 2012 and 2016 the cost of an insulin prescription almost doubled in the US, from $344 to $666. Moreover, there was significant variation in price depending upon the state in which it was sold. In Maine, the price of insulin was as high as $865 in 2016. In California, the highest price of insulin was $407.

Why is the price of insulin so high? Insulin was discovered 100 years ago. The cost has almost doubled only because Congress allows the pharmaceutical companies to charge what they please for it. There is no meaningful price competition.

In Canada, you don’t need a prescription for insulin, so you can also avoid the cost of a trip to the doctor. The Canadian government appreciates that the only people buying insulin are people who need it. Moreover, the price is transparent, predictable and affordable.¬†Diabetics do not have to choose between their insulin and other basic needs as they often do in the US.

In the US, you never know what your insurer is paying and what your copays will be. They are always changing. The cost of insulin is so high that people must search for coupons or rebates. And, still they don’t know what they will have to pay for it.

Congress is looking at ways to address high drug prices. And, the Washington Post reports that there appears to be some bipartisan agreement that people should be able to import their drugs from Canada. Importation is a fine short-term solution. But, that’s already happening, if not legally, apparently without the US government attempting to stop it or penalize people who import their drugs for personal use.

The long-term solution to high drug prices needs to be government price regulation. The simplest solution is for Congress to set drug prices at the average of what other wealthy countries pay, as Senator Bernie Sanders, Congressman Ro Khanna and others have proposed. That’s a market-based solution. Today, Pharma holds all the power to set prices.

If you want Congress to rein in drug prices, please sign this petition.

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