Alarmingly high insulin prices are forcing Americans to flock to Canada to buy the drug
Alan Levine / Flickr

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders led a group of Americans on a bus ride from Detroit, Michigan to Windsor, Ontario last month to call attention to one of America's biggest health issues: the out of control cost of insulin.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 10% of Americans have diabetes and 7.4 million of them must take insulin to survive.


"Americans are paying $300 for insulin. In Canada they can purchase it for $30," Sanders said in a tweet. "We are going to end pharma's greed."

The increasing number of Americans going to Canada for cheaper insulin has caused alarm among some Canadians who fear there isn't enough of the drug to go around.

"There absolutely is some degree of risk," Barry Power, Director of Therapeutic Content with the Canadian Pharmacists Association, told The Huffington Post.

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"If you look at the disparity in the populations, a small percentage of Americans coming to Canada is a disproportionate increase for services and supplies that are earmarked for Canada," Power continued.

The price of insulin in America doubled between 2012 and 2016 when the average annual costs for users jumped from $2,864 to $5,705.

The major reason for the massive price discrepancy is because Canada has socialized medicine and its Patented Medicine Prices Review Board ensures the price of patented medicine sold in Canada is not excessive and is "comparable with prices in other countries."

The U.S. has a market-based system where pharmaceutical companies can manipulate patents to prevent cheaper, generic drugs from coming to market. They can also raise the price to whatever they want.

Medicare, the nation's largest buyer of prescription drugs, is actually barred from negotiating with pharmaceutical companies.

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"They are [raising prices] because they can," Jing Luo, a researcher at Brigham and Women's Hospital, told Vox, "and it's scary because it happens in all kinds of different drugs and drug classes."

The effects of the rise of insulin costs means that one in four Americans who need the drug to survive are now skimping on their use of it because they don't have the money.

"It's an embarrassment for those of us who are Americans," Sanders said while exiting a pharmacy in Canada. "We love our Canadian neighbors and we thank them so much, but we should not have to come to Canada to get the medicine we need for our kids to stay alive, we can do that in America."

Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
True

The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

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Canva

As millions of Americans have raced to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, millions of others have held back. Vaccine hesitancy is nothing new, of course, especially with new vaccines, but the information people use to weigh their decisions matters greatly. When choices based on flat-out wrong information can literally kill people, it's vital that we fight disinformation every which way we can.

Researchers at the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a not-for-profit non-governmental organization dedicated to disrupting online hate and misinformation, and the group Anti-Vax Watch performed an analysis of social media posts that included false claims about the COVID-19 vaccines between February 1 and March 16, 2021. Of the disinformation content posted or shared more than 800,000 times, nearly two-thirds could be traced back to just 12 individuals. On Facebook alone, 73% of the false vaccine claims originated from those 12 people.

Dubbed the "Disinformation Dozen," these 12 anti-vaxxers have an outsized influence on social media. According to the CCDH, anti-vaccine accounts have a reach of more than 59 million people. And most of them have been spreading disinformation with impunity.

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Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
True

The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

Keep Reading Show less