To my U.S. friends: Buying prescriptions in Canada will make you worse off

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash


From what I have heard on the news, I know I speak for a lot of Canadians on this following.

While we are happy to share what we have, please don’t think that buying the prescription medications in Canada, or in any other country, is a solution to the high drug prices you pay in the U.S.

It’s not a solution for several reasons, but mostly because it does not address the cause.

But let’s just focus on some of the other reasons it’s not a solution.

First, if you’re looking for cheaper drugs, Canada isn’t the optimal source. While the U.S. has the highest drug prices in the world — as much as ten times what Canadians pay for the same things — we’re also the fourth-highest jurisdiction in the world. So if you really want to save money, consider countries like Sweden, or maybe Mexico or Cuba.

Second, the drugs you can buy here in Canada are exactly the same as the ones you buy at vastly higher prices in the U.S. Most of our drugs are manufactured by companies with head offices in the U.S. or Europe. So when you come to buy drugs here, you are literally buying U.S. products and re-importing them back home. How does that make sense?

Third, it’s bad for Canadians. We already pay way too much for prescription medications here. For example, we’re paying in some cases $60 for a product that costs $6 to manufacture. And if you start mass importing, that will drive up our costs and reduce availability for people here.

Fourth, it’s bad for you. All that transportation of pills across the border and back adds unnecessary costs. And while the plan may be feasible for those near the border, most people in the U.S. live much farther than a short drive from a Canadian pharmacy. Plus there’s the environmental impact.

Finally, the main reason that Americans buying their prescription medications in Canada and re-importing them to the U.S. is not a solution: It does not address the root cause of the high prices.

The reason that your drugs have such has prices is because the vendors put those prices so high.

There are no restrictions on the prices the manufacturers can charge. Other jurisdictions put controls on pharmaceutical prices.

Now I know many of you are going to say “Pharmaceutical companies need to earn a return on the expensive research that goes into developing new medications.” And it’s true that it’s expensive to develop new drugs.

But that argument does not hold water when private corporations multiply the prices on drugs they’ve been making for a century. Like insulin. In 1923, the Canadian doctors who developed insulin as a treatment for diabetes, Michael Best and Frederick Banting, sold their patent for $1. The price for insulin doubled in the U.S. since 2012. For the same thing. No changes. No justification.

That’s just one example. In short, you’re being gouged. And by buying drugs in another country, you’re just extending the supply chain that leads to the same gouger.

For those of you who cry “free enterprise!” or are afraid of “socialism,” all I can say is that you are facing a choice. Which do you value more: health or money for a tiny minority at the expense of all?

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