Bernie Sanders plans trip to Canada with group seeking cheaper insulin

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is coming to Canada later this month to draw attention to the high cost of prescription drugs in the U.S.

In 1999, then a member of the House of Representatives, Sanders traveled to Canada with a busload of Vermonters to purchase breast cancer treatment that was "1/10th of the price they were paying in the U.S".

He's making the trip to highlight the disparity in prices between the private healthcare system in the US and Canada's publicly funded model. The Medicare system in the US now only provides health insurance to people 65 and older.

On Thursday, Sanders posted videos of himself from the last several decades repeatedly making the call for that national system and arguing healthcare is a human right. "That is insane and it is a real threat to the health of every American". "I hope we are not going to keep debating this for another 50 years".

He said he'll be crossing the border with a group of Type 1 diabetics, who can purchase insulin at one-tenth the cost in Canada.

To bring down costs, Sanders's Medicare for All bill would require the government to negotiate drug prices and cap co-pays for prescription drugs at $200 per year.

"Because of pharmaceutical industry greed, the US price of insulin has almost doubled in recent years, even though the drug can be purchased for one-tenth of the price in Canada", The Hill quoted Sanders' campaign as saying. "Insulin costs over $300 in the US". In Canada, the same exact drug costs about $30. "That price discrepancy is widespread across many medicines, which has fueled the more than $69 billion in annual pharmaceutical industry profits, even while millions of Americans can not afford the prescription drugs they need". The same amount of insulin would have been US$3,060 in her home state of Minnesota.

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"This is what MI residents do all the time when they can't afford their insulin", she wrote. "Thank you @BernieSanders for shedding light to this crisis facing our families". Six Minnesotans drove 1,000 kilometres to a Shoppers Drug Mart in Fort Frances, Ont., in May, and another group travelled to London, Ont., in late June.

Current rules allow Americans to take home a maximum three-month personal supply of medicines bought in Canada, and four states - Florida among them - have passed legislation allowing for wholesale or individual imports of medications.

As Natalie Shure wrote at The American Prospect last month, insulin's wholesale price has tripled in the US over the past decade, severely burdening the millions of Americans who rely on the drug to survive.

In an interview with CNN Thursday, Sanders directly attributed the rising cost of drugs in the United States, and the disparity with prices in Canada, to the overall difference between the health care systems in the two countries.

Although still relatively small-scale, the drug tourism has sparked concerns in Canada.

"In our country it is a much different story". With two dozen hopefuls vying to be the party's flag bearer against incumbent Republican President Donald Trump in 2020, the debating will be divided over two nights, July 30 and 31.

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