The excerpreted article was written by ANDRÉ PICARD | The Globe and Mail
There’s a new kind of drug runner in town – American mothers of children with Type 1 diabetes who cross into Canada in minivans to buy life-saving insulin at a fraction of the cost they would pay at home.
In The Washington Post, reporter Emily Rauhala tells the surreal tale of a caravan of Minnesota moms who travelled to Fort Frances, Ont., where they purchased $1,200 worth of insulin at a local pharmacy, a stash that would have cost them $12,000 in the United States. (Humalog, a popular product, sells for $34 in Ontario, without a prescription. In the U.S., the same vial costs as much as $300.)
The journey was loaded with symbolism, recalling the caravan of migrants headed to the U.S. from Latin America, which was turned back, in part, because President Donald Trump said it was harbouring drug smugglers.
But the insulin moms primarily want to draw attention to the perversity of U.S. drug prices, the absurdity of patent laws and the failings of the insurance system.
Insulin was discovered almost a century ago by researchers affiliated with the University of Toronto. It was one of the great medical discoveries of all time, a drug that has saved millions of lives. The pioneering scientists involved wanted patients with diabetes to receive insulin at little or no cost, so they sold their patent for $1 to the university.
In a rational world, insulin, a drug that is as essential to survival as water for some, would cost next to nothing.
Yet, in the wealthiest country in the world, patients with Type 1 diabetes ration insulin, and even die, because it is unaffordable.
Insulin was first derived from animal sources such as dogs and pigs. Then came synthetic “human insulin,” recombinant products and bioengineered insulin analogues. Once injected with needles and syringes, insulin is now delivered with pens and pumps, based on careful monitoring of blood sugars.
Each of these iterations has improved safety, efficacy, tolerability and convenience. They have also allowed manufacturers to secure new patents on the processes and products – and increase prices. And increase them they have.
According to a report from the Health Care Cost Institute, between 2012 and 2016, the average cost of treating diabetes for a U.S. patient nearly doubled, to $5,700 from $2,900.