Enjoy it While it Lasts

I’ve seen the TV news reports. I’ve read the excellent piece Mike Hoskins wrote at Diabetes Mine.

I’m excited that people are able to go to Mexico or Canada and get insulin at a cost that’s far less than what we pay here in the good old USA.

Enjoy it while you can, folks. Because the thing is… it’s not sustainable.

The current environment that allows people in the USA to go to neighboring countries, purchase insulin, and bring it home for personal use will eventually come to an end.

The reasons for that are many. First among them is that Canada and Mexico negotiate the price of insulin for their citizens. Did you get that last part? For their citizens. Not for citizens of the United States, where our government leaves it to the sellers to determine the price, and the patients to pay the price.

Canada and Mexico will not keep negotiating the price of insulin so they can just allow U.S. citizens to come across the border and pay less. Let’s be honest… they’re being extremely nice to us right now, letting us take advantage of what they’ve worked hard to establish for patients in their countries. Especially given the current political climate, those opportunities may be limited in the future.

Let’s also remember that while a country like Canada may negotiate the price of drugs and devices, the drugs and devices themselves are distributed in specific quantities based on how each province manages its own health care. Ask anyone waiting for an insulin pump or CGM in the Great White North how that’s working for them.

Meanwhile, the citizens of Canada, while getting pretty good health care overall, are paying a fair amount in taxes for the privilege. So, in essence, they’re helping to pay for your low-cost insulin too.

And what if pharmacy benefit managers in the USA catch on to this? They could potentially use their considerable lobbying power to get the government here to clamp down on importation of the drugs they’ve worked hard to establish profit margins on. They won’t give that up without a fight.

Notice how I haven’t mentioned insulin makers yet? That’s because in every other country except the USA, they don’t have to go through pharmacy benefit managers to sell their drugs. For all we know, they might be making a healthy profit elsewhere while PBMs drive the price higher and higher here in the States.

If you’re set on crossing the border and getting insulin sometime soon, I’m not going to stop you, or even complain about it. But don’t expect it to last.

While you’re on the road home, take a moment to thank the governments of Canada and Mexico, and their citizens, for your good fortune.

And when you get back, pick up your phone, write an e-mail, and ask your own government why we don’t have it so good here.

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  • Rick Phillips  On July 10, 2019 at 10:20 pm

    All excellent paints Stephen. I could add a few more at the risk seeming like a fear monger so I wont. My feeling is that we must reform our system here.

    And one thing I will add is that when health care reform comes around, it will because it always does, we must do more than complain. We have to be able to say what we will sacrifice for lower prices. Until we are able to do that, we do not have a single justifiable complaint.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Debra Donkers Souther  On July 11, 2019 at 10:20 am

    Stephen, you make excellent points and I agree with you. Going to another country to buy insulin is not the answear!

    As you may know, I was part of a “Caravan to Canada” to buy insulin. This trip was featured on national (CBS, PBS) and international news as well as many local Minnesota, Michigan and Canadian media outlets. The number one reason that I did this is to bring awareness of the cost of Insulin in the US compared to elsewhere in the world. I believe that it is by raising awareness of the issues that we will bring changes in America.

    Liked by 1 person

    • StephenS  On July 11, 2019 at 11:42 am

      Debra, thanks for sharing! Hope things are going well where you are.


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