Insulin Price Hike Force Diabetics To Cross Borders

The continuous price increase of insulin vials in the United States has led people with diabetes to cross borders over to Canada and Mexico to purchase the much-needed medication at cheaper costs.

The advocacy group, Insulin For All, set out a caravan for people with diabetes to travel over the US-Canada border at a southern Ontario Walmart only to buy cheaper insulin vials.

Canada is selling the drug for only a tenth of the price compared to the United States. In the caravan, dozens of diabetes patient participated most of whom uninsured and have low-income salaries.

Insulin is a drug that helps people with diabetes adjust to abnormal blood glucose levels. Furthermore, daily doses help combat the disease by preventing or stopping it from progressing and causing dangerous complications. However, improper treatment can also lead to the same adverse circumstances.

More than 25 percent of patients must inject themselves with insulin daily. All people with type 1 diabetes and many people with type 2 diabetes need insulin to manage their disease and to prevent or slow the progression of dangerous complications.

However, regular price hikes make insulin challenging to afford for the uninsured, and those whose coverage requires significant cost sharing.

According to a USA Today report, the Health Care Cost Institute indicated that the price of insulin vials nearly tripled from 2002 to 2013, according to one study. Type 1 diabetics paid an average of $5,705 for insulin in 2016 – nearly double what they paid in 2012.

Diabetic advocate Quinn Nystrom, who tagged along with the caravan on Saturday, only paid $243 for her drugs in Ontario. The same supply would have cost her $3,060 at home, CTV News said.

Canadian scientists, one of whom is Sir Frederick Banting, paved the way for the discovery of insulin in 1921 and treated the first diabetic patient in 1922. With the belief of insulin being a drug that could save millions, they sold the patent to the University of Toronto for three Canadian dollars and only received royalty payments from drug companies independently manufacturing their insulin.

In honor of Banting, the group made a pilgrimage to Banting House, the home in London, Ontario where he lived in 1920 when he came up with his theory on the drug.

“He discovered insulin in 1924, and he sold this insulin patent for one dollar because he believed it was for the people,” said to CTV News Jillian Rippolone, who was part of the caravan. “Now they’re selling it for $340 dollars retail,” she added. “No one can afford it.”

Particularly for Canada, drug prices are regulated by the federal Patented Medicine Prices Review Board, which has a mandate is to ensure the cost of medications is “not excessive.”

Meanwhile, in the United States, a 2010 report by the American Diabetes Association indicated that more than half of people or 57% with diabetes who take insulin injections have intentionally skipped a dose, with one-fifth of them reporting that they do so “sometimes” or “often.”

The study also indicated that people with higher household incomes were more likely to follow their treatment regimens and take their insulin injections. Meanwhile, students, those with type 2 diabetes, and those who received more jabs were more likely to skip them.

Furthermore, other reports indicate that the price hikes have caused patients to ration their insulin dosages below the prescribed frequency to save on costs.

“Intentionally skipping insulin injections may be more common than clinicians think,” said lead researcher Mark Peyrot, Ph.D., Department of Sociology, Loyola University Maryland. “It’s important for physicians and other health care professionals to be aware of potential risk factors, especially for patients who report injection-related problems. We hope that in the future doctors will work closely with patients to determine their individual needs so that they can better plan activities to facilitate patients’ adherence with their treatment regimens.” 

Last February, the Senate Finance Committee asked the three dominant insulin makers detailed questions about the drugs’ price increases in a committee letter. The price for one vial of Eli Lilly’s Humalog surged from $35 in 2001 to $234 in 2015. From 2013 to this year, Novo Nordisk’s Novolog jumped from $289 to $540 and Sanofi’s Lantus from $244 to $431.

Recently, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that mandates all health care providers and insurers to disclose costs before offering services—a move that the president hopes will hamper loosely controlled prices in the health care industry.

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