'Caravans to Canada' turn to cities like Windsor for lifesaving medication
The need for a lifesaving medication is seeing more Americans cross the border into Canada.
Border cities like Windsor are seeing more American diabetic patients looking for insulin – unable to afford prices that can be as much as 10 times more stateside.
Advocates with the ‘Caravans to Canada’ campaign largely blame the U.S. for-profit medical system for the drastic price discrepancy.
Jillian Rippolone from Royal Oak, just outside of Detroit, made the trip to Windsor with a small group on Thursday to stock up on insulin at Yee Pharmacy in the city’s downtown.
“Insulin is kind of a human right to have access to insulin and we can’t get it in the United States,” said Rippolone.
She is a Type 1 diabetic and needs insulin daily to balance blood sugars. Rippolone pays a retail price of $350 a vial while the same product from the same manufacturer in Canada sells for $40.
Another group headed to Fort Frances in northern Ontario, including the mother of 26-year-old Alex Smith.
The young man died because the high price of insulin caused him to ration his supply, suffering deadly consequences.
“Alex would still be here today, if I had known I could come to Canada,” said Nicole Smith Holt.
Health experts think the campaign is gaining enough steam to pressure legislators and drug companies to make a change.
“This is very great political theatre, because it draws attention in the U.S. about exceedingly high prices of medicines,” said Steve Morgan, a health policy scientist at the University of British Columbia.
American drug companies claim to be working on lowering prices while some politicians are pushing for the same.
The ‘caravans’ see Americans with diabetes also travel to Mexico in addition to Canada, and pharmacists like Windsor’s Richard Yee don’t expect it to slow down anytime soon.
“They are coming fairly often,” said Yee.
That influx though isn’t expected to create a shortage in supply.
“I don’t see in the near future that they should worry about a shortage of insulin,” said Yee, adding manufacturers also have contingency plans in case of an unexpected drop in supply.
— with files from CTV's Avis Favaro