W.Va. group plans trip to Canada to buy cheaper insulin

W. Va. group to take trip to Canada for cheaper insulin

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WDTV/Gray News) - Laura Jones has had Type 1 diabetes for more than 40 years.

Like roughly 30 million Americans with diabetes, she's seen the cost of the drug that keeps her alive skyrocket.

The cost of insulin nearly doubled between 2012 and 2016.

Even with insurance, the price tag can be crippling.

"You could be talking about the cost of a car payment every month just to provide the medication that you need just to stay alive," Jones said.

Luckily, Jones has good health insurance through her employer to cut the cost of her insulin.

One vile will cost her roughly $40 per month. Without insurance, it's $250.

Less than five hours from Morgantown in Niagara Falls, Canada, the cost of insulin is one-tenth of what it is in the U.S.

That's why a group is planning a trip there to save money on their life-saving medication.

Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, is helping organize the 300-mile journey with the group Insulin for All.

"A lot of us, including me, need to be educated about what a serious problem this is," Fleischauer said. "I bet everybody in West Virginia has a relative who is either or is at risk or has diabetes."

The cost of insulin in Canada is cheaper largely due to its publicly-funded health care system.

The government there caps the cost of insulin. It negotiates prices with drug companies. Prices in the U.S. are negotiated between drugmakers and private insurance companies.

You don't need a prescription there, either. It's legal for Americans to buy insulin in person here, but not legal in most states to import them through the mail.

Insulin is manufactured largely by three companies: Sanofi, Lilly and Novo Nordisk. Each offers a patient assistance program. Each has announced plans in recent weeks to roll back prices.

Novo told WDTV in July that "we recognize that our healthcare system is broken ... we know more must be done to ensure insulin affordability and we are committed to being part of the solution."

The Trump administration said it is working on plans to allow the legal importation of drugs from Canada to help Americans cut costs.

Vermont senator and 2020 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has also been outspoken about Canadian insulin prices. Recently he made his own trip to Windsor, Ontario, standing alongside a group of people with Type 1 diabetes who traveled there from Detroit.

Some states have implemented laws to help their citizens who need the drug. Colorado recently passed legislation to limit the cost of insulin. Other states, including Florida and Vermont, have new laws in place to allow foreign imports.

As for Jones, she serves as the executive director of Milan Puskar Health Right in Morgantown, working to make sure everyone in her community has quality access to health care, including insulin.

"Insulin is not a cure," Jones said. "It is primarily a way to keep us alive and keep us healthy. But it's definitely not a cure."

The local group planning the trip north of the border isn't signing anyone up yet for their trip. Right now, leaders encourage anyone interested to get their passport. It also has a petition circulating online calling on lawmakers to take action.

They plan to leave Sunday, December 8th.

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