A small group of Americans with Type 1 diabetes formed a “caravan” last Friday and drove 600 miles in pursuit of cheaper insulin in Canada.
The #CaravanToCanada crew drove from Twin Cities, Minnesota, to Fort Frances, Ontario, where a vial of insulin costs about $30 — rather than the whopping $300 they would pay in their own town.
This trip was organized under the campaign #Insulin4All, a movement that brings together a community calling on the US government to make medications affordable and to regulate the cost of life-saving drugs like insulin.
Quinn Nystrom, one of the eight people in the caravan and author of the book If I Kiss You, Will I Get Diabetes?, has Type 1 diabetes.
She is the Minnesota #Insulin4All chapter leader and had never traveled north to buy insulin before. Once there, she purchased insulin that will last her the next five months.
“It’s a mix of emotions … on one end, you are so happy and relieved, and it’s like all this anxiety has kind of lifted from you,” Nystrom told Global Citizen. “I just got 10 vials of insulin for the cost of one vial in the United States … It’s crazy to think about that.”
SUCCESS! -5-hour road trip. ✅ -Insulin purchased where NO prescription was needed! ✅ 1 vial of Novolog in the USA 🇺🇸 = 10 vials of NovoRapid in Canada 🇨🇦✅ =6 happy & grateful ppl w/type 1 diabetes & T1 Mom’s 🙏🏻💙#CaravanToCanada#insulin4all#MNinsulin4allpic.twitter.com/0B0jelAQkj— Quinn Nystrom (@QuinnNystrom) May 4, 2019
But on the other hand, she says, the situation is a little heartbreaking.
“Where has America gone wrong that this is our reality?” she said, saying that politicians have failed those in need and seem to be favoring greed and corruption over human lives.
“For me, that’s just a really crushing thing to think about,” she said.
Nystrom is not alone, either.
In fact, there are more than 100 million American adults living with diabetes or prediabetes, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A Yale research study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2018 revealed that 1 in 4 patients surveyed could not afford their insulin. The researchers said that report underscored the need to assess the affordability of this essential medication.
A 5 hr road trip & this is the difference in $ for the same product (they just change the name). Where have we gone wrong America?!? We should be ashamed as a country that this is a solvable issue, and nothing has been done to make it more affordable. #insulin4all#MNinsulin4allpic.twitter.com/7nv3bRLnzP— Quinn Nystrom (@QuinnNystrom) May 5, 2019
While Canada’s cost of a vial of insulin is evidently better, CBC reported earlier this year that Canadians spend more than CAD $1,500 per year on their diabetes drugs, equipment, and supplies according to data from the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA). They also reported that 57% of Canadians did not follow their full treatment plan because of affordability issues.
Insulin costs in the US have increased by over 1,200% since the 1990s, but one vial of analog insulin costs less than $7 to produce, according to #Insulin4All.
Affordable health care is essential in lifting people out of poverty and ensuring good quality of life. Without access to quality care, people cannot thrive — in the US or around the world.
This first #CaravanToCanada trip will not be Nystrom’s last. In fact, she said she’s been chatting with the #Insulin4All chapter leader in Michigan about planning a trip together. She said they want to open the trip up to other states because so many people are now interested in going, and they hope to garner more attention, too.
“We really want to shine a light … on this issue and really … [show] everyday Americans what a problem we have, so that more people will raise their voices, so [that] there’s a huge public outcry about this,” Nystrom said. “We feel like if we can do that, then we’re going to see the pressure on the politicians.”