Diabetes Health Type 1: Crossing the Border to Canada for Affordable Medications

By Claire Lynch

When Wendy Rhodes was 17 years old her mother took her to a rural community hospital in Washington State because she had lost a lot of weight, had an insatiable thirst and excessive urination. Doctors did a workup and diagnosed her as Type 1.

She spent five days in the hospital learning how to test her blood sugar levels, use a glucose meter, draw insulin with a syringe and give herself injections. She also spoke with a diabetic educator who answered lots of Wendy’s questions. “There’s no other history of any type of diabetes in my family, then or now, so being told I was Type 1 was a shock,” Wendy says.


Since her initial diagnosis she has gotten married to Jim and had a child. He is a professional window washer and Wendy, now 44, is the clerk for their mom and pop business.  “We have our busy times and our slower times,” Wendy explains. “In the fall we travel and enjoy the outdoors. We’ve also been home schooling our daughter for six years. Our schedule gives me a flexibility that I enjoy.”

Early on Wendy primarily used R and NPH insulin. She traveled with a Christian singing group and her meals and hours weren’t ideal so her blood sugar levels weren’t good.

“Being diabetic without health insurance is prohibitively expensive,” she notes. “During my pregnancy I used Lantus and Humalog but when I ran out I went back to using the R and NPH insulin. It’s available without a prescription and it’s less expensive.”

She’s grateful to the big-box stores like Walmart where diabetics can get a glucose meter and test strips relatively inexpensively. A vial of insulin costs $25 – no prescription needed.

Wendy and her family have made the two-hour drive from Washington to the Canadian border to get Lantus and Humalog for one-tenth of the price that it would cost in the U.S.

“A few months ago we drove to the border and my daughter and I waited in a park while my mom, who has a passport, drove another 45 minutes to get my medication from a pharmacy,” Wendy says. “She bought eight vials of Lantus and 12 vials of Humalog and paid about $685 USD. In the U.S. it would have cost about $6,600.

“My hope is that American health care can become more equitable and that diabetics across the country won’t have to ‘stretch their insulin’ or do without anymore. There’s got to be a better way.”




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