Jul 29, 2019

Sanders visits Canada with diabetes patients to buy cheaper insulin

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders outside a pharmacy in Windsor, Canada. Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) traveled with health advocates, including diabetes patients, to Windsor, Ontario, Sunday to illustrate how much less insulin costs at pharmacies in Canada compared to the U.S., CBC reports.

Why it matters: Per Axios' Bob Herman, stories about U.S. patients dying from rationing insulin have put the drug at the center of the debate on how the country will lower prices for essential medicines.

Details: Sanders said the U.S. government should set drug costs based on the average prices in 6 other countries, including Canada, per Reuters. He told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union" earlier, "People are dying right now. The cost of insulin has soared in recent years. You have 3 companies who control over 90% of the insulin market."

By the numbers: The cost of a vial of insulin is about $340 in the U.S., whereas it's about $30 in Canada, CBC notes.

  • Almost 26% of people with Type 1 diabetes in the U.S. rationed their insulin in the past year, a rate that's 4 times higher than others who live with the disease in other affluent countries, a survey from nonprofit diabetes advocacy group T1 International shows.

The big picture: The Trump administration has identified drug prices as a key issue. However, this month it killed a major part of its plan to lower prices, which would have overhauled the rebates collected by pharmacy benefit managers — the middlemen between insurance plans and drug companies.

What they're saying: Drugmakers say they have to raise U.S. list prices to offset costly rebates they must offer to get drugs covered by insurance plans, Reuters notes.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

How diabetics are reducing their drug costs

More than 1 in 10 American adults had diagnosed diabetes in 2018, and of those, 13.2% didn't take their medication as prescribed in order to reduce their prescription drug costs and 24.4% asked their doctor for a cheaper drug, according to a new brief from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: We've all heard how insulin is increasingly unaffordable. Here are the statistical consequences, which translate into very real health consequences for patients who aren't taking their medicine.

Go deeper: A quarter of U.S. diabetics ration insulin

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Importation isn't a silver bullet to lower drug prices

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Trump administration is moving forward on the traditionally Democratic policy of importing prescription drugs from abroad, but the impact — if the proposals are actually finalized — could be pretty muted.

The big picture: While importation could help some patients afford their drugs, the policy overall is an attempt to take advantage of other countries' lower drug prices while avoiding taking direct action to limit prices in the U.S.

Go deeperArrowAug 1, 2019

How Democrats want to limit drug prices

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The Democratic presidential candidates' plans to lower drug prices are much more aggressive than what the party has supported in the past.

Between the lines: There are big differences among the candidates' platforms, but the entire debate has shifted to the left.

Go deeperArrowAug 8, 2019