Understanding the Ins and Outs of Purchasing Affordable Insulin in Canada for Americans

The demand for insulin in the American market rises every year with the increasing population of diabetic patients in the U.S. According to the American Diabetes Association, 38.4 million Americans constituted this population in 2021 with 2 million being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and the remainder of the population, with type 2 diabetes. It is estimated that the demand for insulin worldwide will increase by 20 percent by the year 2030.



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Insulin is a necessity for the millions who are diabetic. However, they are constantly faced with a very big challenge the spike in the price of insulin as the years go by. The cost of insulin has continued to rise steadily over the years. The price nearly doubled between 2012 and 2016. This is a great concern for Americans as insulin use is daily, and depending on the type prescribed for the patient, they may require more than one intake of insulin per day.

As a result, families are forced to choose between spending exorbitantly on insulin and spending to meet their other needs. Funnily enough, the same brand of insulin (Eli Lily’s Humalog which is the most common) sold at exorbitant prices in the U.S. is sold at a much cheaper price in Canada up to 10 times less.

Insulin in the Canadian market Vs the American market

The average American would rather spend to get their passport and fuel their car for the 12-hour journey traveling miles to Canada just to buy this lifesaving drug at that cheaper rate. Let’s compare: one Humalog vial sells at $32 (without insurance) in Canada while the same quantity sells at $320 in the United States. We can now understand why the caravaners would keep making their trips.

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Meanwhile, it’s not just about traveling miles to Canada to buy the drug at a cheaper price, some other important points should be put into consideration: is it legal? If one decides to shop from an online pharmacist, how safe is it and what factors should one keep in check? Why are drugs cheaper in Canada?

What every American should know

Having understood the reasons Americans travel miles to buy insulin, we need to answer these questions. First, is it legal? In most circumstances, it is not legal for Americans to import drugs or devices into the U.S. for personal use because oftentimes, there is no approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the use and sale of such drug products. If a drug is approved for use in another country but is an unapproved new drug in the U.S. it is illegal to import. 

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However, there are conditions under which the FDA allows this importation. If it is a prescription drug product used for the treatment of a critical medical condition, the FDA allows the importation of a 3-month supply of the drug following the FDA guidelines on personal importation.

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Second, since most people now prefer online shopping, it is no surprise that Americans would like to choose this option over traveling miles to shop for insulin. For safety purposes, the following should be critically considered when intending to buy from an online pharmacy: be sure that the pharmacy is endorsed, there must be a provision to input or submit your order as prescribed by your doctor, and buy from popular pharmacies. Humalog, Humulin, Novorapid (Novolog), and Basaglar are some brands that fall into this category.

Finally, the reason this lifesaving drug is low-priced in Canada is that the law ensures patented drugs in Canada easily reach their citizens at affordable prices, regardless of the inflation by retailers. The Patented Medicine Prices Review Board makes sure of this even though they do not regularise generic drugs. On the other hand, there is no control over the price system in pharmacies in the United States, hence, the exorbitancy in the price of insulin.


Americans would rather spend to fuel their cars and travel miles to buy insulin at a cheaper price in Canada than buy from the American market. While doing this, they must understand what the law dictates about this, and while considering shopping online for an option, they should take note of the above-stated factors for safety purposes.


American Diabetes Association. (n.d.). Statistics About Diabetes. Retrieved from https://diabetes.org/about-diabetes/statistics/about-diabetes

Hayes, T. O., & Barnhorst, M. (n.d.). Research: Understanding the Insulin Market. American Action Forum. Retrieved from https://www.americanactionforum.org/research/understanding-the-insulin-market/

Buy Canadian Insulin. (n.d.). What You NEED to Know Before Buying Insulin From Canada. Retrieved from https://www.buycanadianinsulin.com/buying-insulin-from-canada/

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2023, December 7). Personal Importation For Import Program. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/industry/import-basics/personal-importation



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