Richard Davis: Insulin pilgrims help fight high prices


Too many American insulin-dependent diabetics are facing life-threatening crises because they can't afford the obscene prices that insulin manufacturers are charging. You may see a few seconds on the national news about the problem and politicians may offer a few sympathetic sentences, but there has been no meaningful effort to curb the profiteering of the companies that make major donations to campaign reelection bank accounts.

A vial of insulin that may last a month for many diabetics can cost about $320 in this country, while the same vial can be purchased for $30 in Canada. Profits for insulin manufacturers remain strong. In December of 2018 an operating profit of 17 percent was recorded for Eli Lilly, one of the major insulin manufacturers.

When it comes to drug prices in this country there are few constraints on pricing and the powerful pharmaceutical lobby works hard to keep it that way. Americans are suffering and dying because of the immorally high profits of these companies, but all we get from politicians is talk without action.

That is why a group of people from Minneapolis decided to take matters into their own hands. They recently organized a caravan to London, Ontario to buy affordable insulin and to show how desperate some insulin-dependent diabetics have become.

According to a July 3 Reuters story, "The caravan numbers at approximately 20 people, according to Nicole Smith-Holt, a member of the group. Smith-Holt said her 26-year-old son died in June 2017 because he was forced to ration insulin due to the high cost. This is Smith-Holt's second time on the caravan. Caravan to Canada trekked the border in May for the same reasons, which Holt-Smith said was smaller than the group this week. She said Americans have gone to countries like Mexico and Canada for more affordable medications in the past and continue to do so."

Sadly, too many of the Americans who need affordable insulin the most probably cannot afford to make a trip to Canada or Mexico to try to make life more tolerable while living with diabetes. The insulin profiteering that is going on in the U.S. should be considered criminal but instead it is just how the drug industry does business.

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When a group of people depend on insulin to stay alive the people who manufacture insulin know they have diabetics at their mercy and they play with their lives in the name of profits. If there was ever a piece of legislation begging to be passed it is one that controls the price of insulin. Don't hold your breath.

People have been talking about the rising price of insulin for too many years and prices have continued to climb. I don't want to be one of those people who continues to point out how bad it is without offering to work on a solution.

So here's what I am proposing. I am offering to hire a van and drive people from the Brattleboro area to buy insulin in Canada. If you are interested in making the trip call me at 254-2240 or e-mail:

If there is enough interest in such a trip I think we could figure out how to have people buy a three month supply of insulin while making the trip in one day. But I don't want this to be a one-time trip. It is my hope that other communities will try to do the same thing.

If this effort multiplies it could garner enough attention so that politicians might actually stop talking and offering sympathy and actually do something about this continuing human crisis. Contact me if you want to make the trip.

Richard Davis is a registered nurse. He writes from Guilford and welcomes comments at The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.


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