Why insulin and other medications are so much cheaper to buy in Canada $32 versus $320 in the U.S.

Canada, like many other industrialized countries, has price controls on the cost of pharmaceuticals. The Patented Medicine Prices Review Board strictly regulates the price of patented medicine sold in Canada so that it is not excessive. However Canada does not regulate the price of generic drugs. The United States has no regulations on the price of medications like insulin.

There are significant differences in price between the U.S. and Canada. One report says that the retail price of a vial of Humalog in the U.S. is $300. In Canada, the same vial costs $32. According to media reports, a  number of Americans cross the border into Canada to get their insulin. The FDA permits cross-border dispensing of up to a three-month supply, provided it’s for personal use.

Canada is better than the U.S. at regulating the price of insulin. Still, a report by the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) found that on average, Canadians spend more than $1,500 Cdn per year on diabetes medications, devices and supplies. In general, Canadians with Type 1 diabetes pay more than those with Type 2 diabetes. And, if you’re on an insulin pump, you pay a lot more. Exactly how much Canadians pay depends in large part on the province in which they live

There are limits to what the board can do, however, as it has no control over mark-ups by retailers, doesn’t set the price that public or insurance drug plans will reimburse, and doesn’t control pharmacist filling fees. It also doesn’t regulate the price of generic drugs.

People in the U.S. pay two to six times more than the rest of the world for brand name prescription medicine, according to organizations which study these costs.

Presently, although the President is discussing allowing U.S. citizens to purchase pharmaceuticals in Canada, it’s not yet legal federally for Americans to bring drugs from Canada back into their country. However, as long as they’re not importing more than 3 months worth, and the drugs aren’t controlled substances like narcotics, border officials and the FDA look the other way. In addition, Many states have already passed legislation to allow it.

Foreign drug imports are technically banned because of the belief that pharmaceuticals north of the border don’t face the same rigorous standards those in the south do.”

Presently, a vial of insulin Type 1 diabetics need to regulate their blood sugar costs about US$340 in south of the border, roughly 10 times the price in Canada.