Patients drive hundreds of miles to save hundreds of dollars on insulin

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Some patients are driving to Canada to buy insulin because the cost in the U.S. is very high.

"You're in Canada and all of a sudden, insulin is a lot cheaper," Lauren Granata said. "There are people that legitimately die because they can't afford this, and I can drive across the border and buy this for $100 and it keeps me alive."

Channel 9's sister station in Pittsburgh took the trip with the travelers.

[1 egg a day may help keep Type 2 diabetes away, new study says]

The border crossing agent said he's seen other U.S. citizens on the same mission, which is to find ways to pay less for medication.

"Shock, just complete shock. It doesn't make sense that we have to do it the way we do back home," Brent Garner said.

The travelers checked out two pharmacies and were stunned at how much they saved on insulin.

A prescription is not always needed in Canada.

"I got three of these without a prescription for $113.97 which is $90 (in the) U.S., I think," Garner said. "I think right now, cash price in U.S. is $285 or so, per vial."

Now, both houses of Congress are investigating insulin prices.

First, a Senate committee launched an investigation and, on Tuesday, a House subcommittee discussed the pricing. In the meantime, at least one drug maker, Eli Lilly, plans to add a less expensive generic to the market.

The Food and Drug Administration warns against importing drugs because it said it cannot ensure the safety and effectiveness of the meds.

Some patients aren't deterred by that warning.

"Legally, you can bring a three-month supply across the border, so if I have to do this once every three months, I have to do it once every three months," Granata said.

In the U.S., Medicare can't negotiate drug prices. Canada has a drug review board that compares drug effectiveness and pricing. The board may not approve a drug if there's a good alternative that's less expensive, so that can drive companies to lower their prices to remain competitive.