Why Americans are traveling to Canada to purchase insulin, other medications

Nation & World

(NBC) – It’s no secret there is a huge difference in the cost of insulin between the U.S. and Canada. One couple is willing to travel every few months to save hundreds on the life saving drug.

“It’s a day’s drive down and back.” Paul and Annie Thompson are planning their next road trip.

“This is July and we’re already talking about the end of October,” said Paul Thompson, who lives in Waterville, Maine.

Their fall drive isn’t for foliage. It’s for a medicine that could potentially save Paul’s life.

They’ll drive more than 300 miles from Waterville, Maine to St. Stephen, New Brunswick and back.

They’ve done this drive once before.

“You have to. Because you know ,when you’re insulin is out it’s out,” he said.

“You were down to that day,” noted his wife, Annie.

“That day when I went over to get it. I had enough to last me that day in my pump,” he recalled.

Paul has type two diabetes with type one tendencies. He and Annie will drive to Canada every three months for the foreseeable future to get the insulin he needs.

Why? That road trip saves them hundreds of dollars.

“It’s a crisis.”

The Thompson’s are one example of people who have traveled to Canada for cheaper insulin.

Without insurance, the Thompson’s say they would have to pay over $3,800 for a three-month supply.

With medicare supplemental insurance it costs them greater than $600 for the same amount.

In Canada for 90 day supply the price was approximately $400 Canadian, just over $300 American.

Senator Susan Collins of Maine is supporting a new bi-partisan bill to roll back a decade of insulin price hikes.

“What we found is a highly complex opaque system that is riddled with conflicts of interest,” she said.

The insulin price reduction act is designed to hold pharmacy benefit managers, pharmaceutical companies, and insurers accountable for surging prices of insulin by encouraging list price reductions.

“It’s about time.”

Paul and Annie are hopeful this could be the solution, to finding affordable medicine at their own neighborhood pharmacy.

Until then, they’ll continue to spend time to save.

“It was so simple. I don’t know what I hadn’t done so before.”

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