Thursday, September 23, 2021

Where do Americans get their insulin?

If you are among those who follow the latest news in the "world" of diabetes mellitus, you are surely aware of the situation with insulin drug prices and people's desperation because of it. 

Even though this situation is not something unusual for the US, patients all over the country look for more ways to find a better insulin supply. Especially in recent years, when Insulin Affordability Crisis in America became highly crucial.

To be honest, the question of why Americans try all possible ways just to get their lifesaving drug doesn't even appear at this point. Just think about it - pharmaceutical research demonstrated that insulin medications are 80% cheaper outside the country than in the United States. 

That sounds crazy, eighty percent difference on vital product people with diabetes cannot live without. No wonder many individuals are ready to risk it all, stop thinking about legality and safety, and do what they need to do to avoid severe health complications and to save their lives.

After American patients started talking about this issue, the Border Patrol and the FDA allowed bringing in a limited amount of medicine when re-entering the country. All of those, obviously, are meant for the personal use of a patient. Mainly, people with diabetes often choose Canadian pharmacies to stock up on all needed remedies because it is closer and, as followed, safer for transportation, more comfortable in general, and easier to deliver in terms of border patrol.

And now, without further ado, let's dive into the world of drug companies and the health care system in America. Hopefully, you'll find answers to all your questions about insulin supply in the USA.

An average price of insulin per month

Of course, it is impossible to say the exact price for every patient with diabetes of type 1 and type 2. Everyone has different needs depending on the type of diabetes mellitus, the time a person is living with it, medications prescribed by a medical professional, and various other factors.

In this way, those who require an insulin analog need a basal dose once or twice per day, while others administer regular insulin for controlling blood sugar levels from three to four times per 24 hours. But let's take average numbers - when buying insulin for 30 days, the US citizens need three vials or thirty pens per month. Once again, the price may vary depending on the brand that was prescribed to a patient; but in general, during the last year, Americans paid $1200 per month for their drug supplies. As you may have guessed, this amount of money is something unreal for most categories of individuals with diabetes.

And don't forget about all additional tools, such as syringes, test strips, and (for some people) insulin pumps. The last one can cost up to $4000 plus $3000 for batteries and other important parts. No wonder most patients look for ways to import drugs because, even with international shipping, the cost will be much lower than at any American local pharmacy.

Is it possible for Americans to buy insulin in Canada?

The answer to the question above is pretty confusing - and yes, and no. It is illegal to purchase Canadian insulin supplies; however, it is legal for Canadian pharmacies to ship medications to residents in the US directly. Not only that, federal and state proposals to import drugs from Canada were created to give people more opportunities to buy medications from abroad. But Canadian locals are not really supportive of this idea; they are worried that this step may lead to shortages or make overall insulin prices higher. Other than that, the Canadian pharmacists association supports the USA citizens who are in need of insulin for glucose control and is ready to help any of them. And that is exactly why American buy insulin from Canada.

Why is insulin cheaper in Canada?

The Patented Medicine Prices Review Board in Canada is in charge of making sure that high insulin prices are not a problem for diabetes patients in the country. Of course, they cannot control mark-ups by retailers who are working for themselves; they also do not regulate the costs of generic drugs.
The United States, on the other hand, has absolutely no regulations over pharmaceutical pricing. That is exactly why insulin medicines cost hundreds of dollars and may be 2-6 times more expensive than in Canada.

How to transport insulin medications safely across the country?

As with all insulin and insulin-like products, there are certain storage rules which should be followed in order to keep remedies appropriate for drug administration and the overall safety of the patients. For example, unopened vials and pens should always be kept in the refrigerator at a temperature from 2°C to 8°C, away from the freezer compartment or the back of the fridge (which is typically colder than other parts of the machine). Frozen medications cannot be used by individuals because they may lead to unexpected health complications and life-threatening conditions.

Speaking about the products which are about to be used or are currently in use, those are mainly stored at a room temperature not higher than 25°C (however, some still need to be kept in the fridge; detailed instructions are usually present in the box). The place of storage needs to be dark, dry, away from direct sunlight and kids. It is crucial to look at the expiration date carefully in order not to administer expired medicine into the body.

During transportation, special cold shipping boxes, packaging, or containers are used to preserve products at a perfect temperature. It is also recommended to use specially designed pouches during trips to make sure purchased insulin won't spoil during the journey. It is better to use it despite the weather or season outside, not only for thermal control but for damage prevention as well.

Final word

As you may see, insulin medication purchase is the problem almost every American is familiar with. People prefer buying drugs abroad because it is more affordable, comfortable, and it is a perfect way to shorten medication expenses as well. Fortunately, it is still an option to buy insulin in Canada as it is the closes place with the best prices nowadays. We really hope this problem will soon be left in the past. Thank you for reading and take care!

This is a guest blog entry.

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