I-Team Report: Drug costs in Canada - WNEM TV 5

I-Team Report: Drug costs in Canada

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The rising price of EpiPens and other pharmaceuticals has Americans looking to Canada for their prescription drugs. 

"I broke out in hives. My face swelled up, along with my lips. My throat started swelling up," Kimberly Smith said.

She said a single bee sting can put her life in danger. So she carries an EpiPen with her wherever she goes.

"If I don't have these pens, I either have to go to the hospital or I'm going to die," Smith said.

The life-saving pens are not cheap and the price has skyrocketed recently.

The manufacturer, Mylan, has been under intense scrutiny this past year as prices hit a new high of $600 for a two pack.

For people like Smith with a sever allergy, they're going to need a lot more than two. Which makes the price tag for the drug almost too much to afford.

The I-Team took a trip across the bridge to Canada to see if the EpiPen and other drugs are cheaper. It turns out, they are.

TV5 went to Sarnia, Ontario where they stopped at London Road Pharmacy. Tammy Maure, pharmacist, said she sees a lot of Michigan people in her shop.

"Doesn't really bother me. The only thing is if it's a prescription it has to be cosigned by a Canadian physician or we can't fill it," Maure said.

She said things like insulin, blood pressure medication or EpiPens don't require a prescription in Canada. EpiPens only cost $106 in Canada - in Canadian dollars. That's $79 U.S. dollars.

That's a lot cheaper than the price tag in the U.S.

"Well, I think the government has a tight leash on what the drug companies do and are allowed to spend so it makes it a lot different for us," Maure said.

The Canadian government, unlike in America, regulates the price of their drugs so they aren't too expensive for their citizens.

The I-Team went to a restaurant where Sarnia residents said they have never worried about not being able to pay for their medication.

"No, not at all. All the drugs are paid for. You have your prescription. I mean, there's different plans that allow us to and we have to pay a small dispensing fee, but overall I'm not too concerned about it," said Paul Campbell, Canadian citizen.

However, Canada is a lot different when it comes to healthcare. What they don't pay for at the pharmacy they do in taxes.

"Well, it's a Canadian value. All of us have a healthcare care. So anyone in Canada who needs healthcare or drugs can get them at no cost to them," said Mike Bradley, mayor of Sarnia.

He said his country's views on healthcare is something he's grateful for.

"Just this past August I had a major skin cancer operation. I was brought home from the hospital and I think the total cost of the medication, even though it was very expensive, it was just a couple of dollars. That's what we try to do as Canadians, take care of each other," Bradley said.

Before U.S. residents head to Canada to purchase EpiPens, they should know the rules as they pass through customs.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, it is legal to bring back items like EpiPens as long as it is for personal use. To make the drive across the bridge smoother, customs suggests residents declare all medicine as they enter back into the United States. Americans should keep the drugs in their original containers and present a valid prescription if necessary.

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