NORTH YORK—Patients in Windsor and other Ontario border communities need assurance supplies of insulin and other prescription drugs will not be compromised by increasing cross-border importation by US patients, Ontario Liberal leadership candidate Michael Coteau, MPP for Don Valley East, said today.
US presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders visited Windsor Sunday with US diabetes patients who are part of the so-called “American caravan” seeking to buy insulin in Canada at a fraction of US prices. Sanders’s platform includes reforms to reduce US prescription drug prices. More than twenty pieces of US federal and state level legislation have been introduced in 2019 that would allow wholesale or individual importation of drugs from Canada, with laws passed to date in Maine, Vermont, Florida and Colorado.
“People in Windsor, like all Canadians, are extremely sympathetic to our American neighbours who face rising drug prices that may force them to choose between feeding their families and filling their prescriptions. Indeed, I am fighting for the goal of ensuring universal access to medication for all Ontarians,” said Coteau. “But Canada simply cannot meet the medication supply needs of a country ten times its size. My job is to fight to ensure people in Ontario have access to the medication they need.”
“In the case of insulin, the US is responsible for an estimated 30 percent of global demand, while Canada is allocated only two percent of global supply,” Coteau noted. “With our insulin prices far lower than in the US, it’s understandable that American patients want to buy this life-saving medication north of the border.”
“Health Canada must carefully monitor the insulin supply in Windsor and other border communities, and assure Canadian patients that our medication supplies will continue to meet their needs and the health of Canadians will not be threatened or compromised by an increase in cross-border importation.”
Ontario pharmacists would also benefit from clear direction from Health Canada on how to respond to increased demand from US patients, Coteau said.
“As front-line health professionals, Ontario pharmacists are caught between a rock and hard place,” Coteau said. “They have an ethical obligation to serve all patients, but need clarity from Health Canada on how to respond to US patients’ legitimate and legal requests for three-month supplies of insulin and other medications—a challenge compounded by insulin’s non-prescription status in Canada.”
“Canadian pharmacists and patients recognize that cross-border importation by US patients is not a long-term solution to drug pricing models in the United States,” Coteau said. “Under no circumstances should cross-border importation be allowed to create or exacerbate drug shortages in Windsor and other border communities, or anywhere else in Canada.”
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