The American drug pricing policy, or rather the absence of any mechanisms regulating prescription drug prices, has been widely criticized. Enabling pharmaceutical companies to set inflated prices even for life-saving medicines, the system is justified in terms of capital being directed to further medical progress and drug development. However, diving deep into the facts, one only wonders whether the inhumane situation arisen around the pharmaceutical market in recent years should be justified by economic expediency. Dissatisfaction with the drug price situation, in particular, is caused by skyrocketing insulin prices, which have led many diabetics in a difficult life situation to frustration.

Diabetes in the USA

About 10% of the US population has diabetes. Approximately one tenth of this number has type 1 diabetes, making them rely on insulin on a daily basis. In other words, 1.5 million Americans need insulin injections to survive, much more — to stay healthy and maintain their normal lives. By 2019, diabetes continues to hold the 7th place among most common causes of death, taking more than 250,000 lives annually according to official statistics, seen as highly underreported by some experts. The incidence of diabetes around the world is increasing and is spreading to a wider population: previously, type 2 diabetes was observed mainly in older adults, but now increasingly appears in children and youth. Insulin Prices Diabetes is becoming a disaster for the most vulnerable people: low-income Americans not having a good insurance plan. Spontaneously arising charitable groups with people sending spare insulin to those in need help alleviate the situation, slightly. High prices for life-saving meds are forcing people to resort to extreme measures: purchasing insulin of dubious origin, taking lesser doses than prescribed, as well as purchasing drugs abroad. Online pharmacies that ship Canadian drugs to the United States are also gaining popularity, although the US health services are warning buyers of the risks of importing medication. Meanwhile, uncontrolled diabetes and reduced doses of insulin may lead to serious health deterioration or even death.

How much does it cost to have diabetes in the US

The monthly supply of insulin in America on average costs more than $320. Over the past two decades, the price of insulin has increased by about 10 times. Against the backdrop of growing concerns, online publications have told heartbreaking stories of people who died from a lack of insulin, trying to make it till the pay day. Social activists demand an immediate solution to the problem, asking whether this state of things can be considered normal in the world’s richest country. Just to recall, insulin was developed by Canadian scientists back in 1921, almost a century ago, and sold to Toronto University for 3 dollars. In March 2019, Elly Lilly, one of the main insulin manufacturers, introduced generic insulin for $130 per vial, which is more than 2 times cheaper than the brand-name Humalog of the same company. Basically, the company offers two identical products with a huge price difference of $150. While some may see it as moving to the right direction, experts call it a forced move, caused by an outrage about the rising insulin prices, which only demonstrates how damaged the US healthcare system is and how inflated the prices really are. Another investigation has shown that the lower-price insulin remains unavailable or simply unknown to people who could gain benefit from it.

Can cheap non-prescription insulin from Canada solve the problem?

Americans who found themselves in a quandary have discovered a way to get cheaper drugs by buying insulin abroad, mainly in Canada or Mexico. Busloads of people travel to neighboring countries, where a monthly supply of insulin can be purchased for $30 and no prescription needed. “Indeed, who is going to buy insulin unless necessary?” says a local pharmacist who proffered to remain anonymous. The Canadian government sets upper limits on prescription drug prices, which causes this significant price difference. However, importing from Canada cannot completely solve the drug problem for the US: the pharmaceutical market of a country with a 10 times smaller population is not designed to cover the needs of a large neighbor. The people are expecting the US government to introduce practical solutions for the growing problem, while the recent initiatives proposed by Trump administration are seen as a shiny facade but not a working strategy for a better healthcare system. Introducing state-imposed limitations for drug prices, improving the subsidy assistance and insurance systems, as well as facilitating the introduction of cheaper generics to the market could probably alleviate the problem which millions of Americans are facing nowadays.