Americans flocking to Windsor for cheaper insulin

Americans are coming here to buy insulin because it's cheaper.

Insulin is ten times more expensive in the U.S.

Richard Yee, owner of Yee Pharmacy displays two types of insulin sold at his store. Americans are going there to buy it because it is ten times cheaper than in the states. (Dale Molnar CBC News)

Americans are flocking over the border to Windsor to buy insulin.

It's ten times cheaper here than in the U.S. and one local pharmacist said he handles phone call inquiries every day from people in Michigan looking to buy the life-saving drug.

Richard Yee, owner of Yee Pharmacy in downtown Windsor, said Americans come to his pharmacy about 15 times a month to buy insulin because they either can't afford it in the states or they need an emergency supply and their insurance won't cover the expense.

The boxes of four different brands of insulin medications are shown on a table.
Types of Insulin sold at Yee Pharmacy can range in price from $40 to $100. (Dale Molnar CBC News)

Yee said the prices in Canada can range from $40 to $100 depending on the type of insulin.

"The person that just came in today, they told me they can't believe it's so much cheaper," said Yee.

Jillian Rippolone led a group of diabetics from Michigan Thursday to Yee Pharmacy. Her insurance covers most of her insulin costs but she said it won't cover emergency supplies that go over the maximum amount per month. She said Americans need a prescription to buy insulin in the states, unlike in Canada.

She pays $340 US a vial for insulin at home — about $457 here. At Yee Pharmacy it was $40.

She wants Michigan to adopt a law called Kevin's Law, which would allow Americans to buy emergency doses without a prescription.

"If we're not getting the vial of insulin we need to survive, there are diabetics dying out there," said Rippolone.

Rippolone is the leader of the Michigan chapter of Insulin for All, a lobby group that is trying to get federal and state legislators to enact tougher regulations on the prices of drugs. 

Drug prices in Canada are lower because the government regulates the prices. 

Quinn Nystrom is the chapter leader of the Insulin for All group in Minnesota. She said the U.S. government has chosen greed and profit over people's best interests.

"They make a big deal about unborn life in the womb," said Nystrom. "Once we become a living breathing adult your life is just sort of discarded."

Robert Koenigsmann is a police officer who lives in Chesterfield Township, Michigan. His 9 year-old son Chase was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes last June.

Koenigsmann's insurance doesn't pay for prescription drugs, so he is faced with paying $973 every six months. He is looking to cheaper alternatives — which may include coming to Windsor.

"It's a need to help my child survive," said Koenigsmann.

Robert Koenigsmann with his son Chase. (Robert Koenigsmann)

Yee said the number of Americans buying insulin right now won't impact the supply here in Windsor because he says suppliers will just make more if the demand is there.

Rippolone expects to lead another group to come to Windsor next month.


Dale Molnar

Video Journalist

Dale Molnar is a video journalist at CBC Windsor. He is a graduate of the University of Windsor and has worked in television, radio and print. He has received a number of awards including an RTDNA regional TV news award and a New York Festivals honourable mention.