London

London, Ont., birthplace of insulin, latest stop for desperate American diabetics

Some two dozen people from the United States will be in London, Ont., this weekend to buy cheap insulin at area pharmacies and pay tribute to the co-founder of the lifesaving medication.

About 25 will be in southwestern Ont. city this weekend to pay homage to Sir Frederick Banting and buy insulin

Quinn Nystrom, from Minneapolis, is leading a group from the United States to London, Ont., to visit Banting House and purchase insulin that's much less expensive in Canada. (Supplied by Quinn Nystrom)

Some two dozen people from the United States will be in London, Ont., this weekend to buy cheap insulin at area pharmacies and pay tribute to the co-founder of the lifesaving medication.

The caravan will leave from Minneapolis, Minn., and pick up people in Madison, Wisconsin, Chicago, Illinois and East Lansing, Mich., said Quinn Nystrom, one of the organizers of the excursion. 

"There is an insulin crisis in America. The price of insulin has increased 200 per cent and one in four Americans has been found to be rationing their insulin," Nystrom said. 

Nystrom has Type 1 diabetes. A vial of the insulin she needs costs $340 US (about $450 Cdn) in Minneapolis, but just $30 Cdn here. 

"I was able to get 10 vials of the insulin I need for the price of one vial," Nystrom said. 

'Birthplace of insulin'

In Canada, insulin is available over the counter. The Americans have alerted London-area pharmacies that they're coming, so the medication can be made available, and are spreading out to different pharmacies so as not to overburden the supply, she added. 

"That's the other shocking thing for Americans. We can just come to Canada and buy what we need. In the U.S., you need a prescription, and it's a lot of rigamarole. Sometimes, if the contract for our particular prescription expires, your insurance company will no longer cover it, or if they have a new contract with a new company, you have to switch brands." 

The Americans will also be visiting Banting House, considered "the birthplace of insulin," where Sir Frederick Banting is said to have woken up in the middle of the night in October 1920 with the idea that led to the discovery of insulin.

Banting and John James Rickard Macleod, a University of Toronto professor of physiology, shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1923. Banting also shared the honour with his assistant, Charles Best, who helped him start the work that led to the discovery of insulin.

"We want to pay homage to Banting and this medicine," Nystrom said. 

The group is travelling with international journalists and will hold a news conference on Saturday. 

Sir Frederick Banting, seen here in a 1921 photograph, is one of the co-discoverers of insulin with Charles Best, then a student at University of Toronto. (Sir Frederick Banting House)

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