Americans with diabetes are forming caravans to buy Canadian insulin at 90% off

The price-gouger-driven skyrocketing prices for insulin have endangered the lives of Americans with diabetes, who are rationing their supplies and trying not to die.

All of this is part of the story of how the for-profit US health care system is radicalizing Americans and driving them to desperate measures (this is the plot of the title story in my latest book).

The latest expression of this desperation is the "Caravan to Canada," groups of Americans with diabetes who form caravans of automobiles and buy insulin at Canadian pharmacies (Canadian insulin costs 90% less than the clinically identical US version, because Canadian pharmaceutical prices are fixed by a government agency called the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board).

America has about ten times as many people as Canada, a fact that worries some pharamceutical industry figures; the CBC quotes Barry Power, director of therapeutic content with the Canadian Pharmacists Association, saying "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."

Lija Greenseid, who organized the Caravan to Canada, lives in St. Paul, Minn. Her 13-year-old daughter has Type 1 diabetes and she and her husband buy insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

Last year, she said they spent $13,000 US just to obtain health insurance — and then $14,000 US out of pocket before her daughter's insulin was covered.

"It's a huge amount of money for us. Because of that, we didn't put any money into our kids' college savings accounts or put anything into retirement for the year. We really just had to pay our health-care bills," Greenseid said.

"So now you can see why we do crazy things like go across the border and buy insulin."

Why desperate Americans are driving to Canada in caravans for insulin [Emma Davie/CBC News]

(Image: Quinn Nystrom)

See also: Part protest, part survival tactic: How Americans are using pilgrimages to Canada to get cheaper insulin