We have been in Canada for not quite a week, in Quebec province first in Montreal then in Quebec City. We have purchased insulin in 4 different pharmacies in two different cities. Much of what I thought I knew is not quite correct, so I felt it was worth it to share what I found out:
You do not need a prescription to buy insulin. But many pharmacists don’t know that. If they refuse to sell insulin without a prescription, tell them to please look it up: there is no need for a prescription.
While it is much cheaper than in the US, it is quite a bit more expensive than we had discussed on this forum. A few months ago, I reported that, on Twitter, a US user had said that a vial of insulin costs $16CAN: that is not true. A PENFILL (cartridge for a pen) costs about that much for quick acting insulin.
There are significant price differences between pharmacies. We have bought quick acting insulin for $70CAN to $90CAN per box of 5 penfills, depending on the pharmacy. We have found Montreal pharmacies, on average, to be cheaper than Quebec City pharmacies.
You can get a free pen every time you buy a box of insulin.
It is possible to buy Lantus in penfills, something we can’t do in the US. For that, you need a Clickstar pen.
There is essentially no difference in insulin price between vials and penfills when adjusted for number of units.
Lantus cost us between $125CAN and $140CAN per box of 5 penfills. We have bought (or been quoted) Humalog, Novolog and FIASP for $70CAN to $90CAN per box of 5 penfills.
We have not found a pharmacy that stocks FIASP. You need to order it, which takes approximately 2 business days.
When you buy insulin, many pharmacies will ask to open a “folder” (“dossier”) on you. There is no harm in it but it is not necessary, since it is only needed for insurance purposes. Once I has figured it out, I said everytime that I did not need one.
In Canada, Novolog is named NovoRapid.
As a reminder, it us 100% legal to buy insulin in Canada, but bringing it back to the US has severe limitations, which we discussed in many threads here. I cannot post a link to them because I am on my phone. Essentially, it is illegal to bring insulin sold in the US back home, and insulin unavailable in the US (FIASP) requires a prescription and is maxxed at 3 months of supply. So buyer beware:-)
A vial, in Quebec, is named the same (“un vial”), while a penfill is named “une cartouche (de stylo a insuline)” or “un penfill”. So a box of 5 penfills is “une boite de cinq penfills” or “une boite de cinq cartouches.”
Michael, My son goes to College in Toronto. I live in CT. I see that there is an ‘online’ pharmacy from which I can by 5 boxes of Lantus for $633 USD and have it shipped to my door. What price did you pay for Lantus when you were up there? Cheaper? Express scripts wants to charge me $1064 for 3 boxes compared to mail order of $633 that is a huge savings. Is there any reason to go visit my kid?
I am sure @Michel will be along shortly, but we have some members that have reported successfully purchasing by mail order, and others that have successfully imported from Canada on a trip. It appears that as long as you stay at the 3 month or less levels of purchase that the border patrol is looking the other way.
Additionally, if you visit your son you will know how the insulin was stored, vs purchasing through the mail. And you will not have shipping charges.
A box of 5 Lantus pens costs about CAN$113 in Toronto, so 5 boxes would be CAN$565 or US$440.
Because Canadian packaging has French as well as English on it. And the Canadian Lantus pen box says manufactured in Canada and “Export prohibited.” Not that I’ve ever read of anyone getting it confiscated at the border.
If you can’t visit that often, can you work something out with your son whereby he buys it and mails it to you? I assume he wouldn’t charge you $200 shipping.
@dughuse, I found it a little bit cheaper to buy insulin in Canada vs getting it shipped, but probably not enough to justify flying over there: I bought Lantus in Montreal and in Quebec City for CAN$125 to CAN$130 per 5 penfills, which is equivalent to US $95 to $100.
When we brought insulin back from there, we did get inspected by Customs and they did not say anything about the insulin we carried (we had a lot). Several of us have had insulin shipped from back there and had no problem.
If I had any advice, mine would be:
If you need Canadian insulin, get it shipped in approx. 3 months increments, and send them a prescription to put in the box for you
If you fly over there, by all means buy insulin there. Do bring a prescription with you, not for the pharmacy, but for customs just in case.
If, somehow, your prescription listed a much higher amount of insulin than you actually consume in three months, it may actually be a helpful mistake on the part of your doctor.
Btw, you may also want to consider Basaglar instead of Lantus: quite a bit cheaper, both in Canada and here.
No, strictly speaking it appears to be illegal—but there is a practical tolerance for it on the FDA’s side, which means that customs don’t enforce it (unless they feel it is for distribution), which makes it possible for tens of thousands of people to do it every month
I would have no hesitation in doing it tomorrow if I needed to.
I live in CT. I’m going on a Boy Scout trip to VT tomorrow and decided to call Canada to check availability and prices on Lantus and Humulog. I called Familprix in Stanstead just over the boarder off I-91. Express scripts was going to charge me $1795 for 5 boxes of Lantus Solo Star pens! 5 boxes of Lantus AND 5 boxes of Humulog come to $613 USD!?!?!? So, I will be adding the 2 hours up and 2 hours back for those kinds of savings. Thank you all for this site!
One more thing, I noticed people asking about buying and importing insulin from Canada and the legalities there in. The Legal Information Institute has access to U.S. Code 384 - Importation of prescription drugs here https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/21/384 On page 5 of 7 you will note under section (3) Drugs Imported from Canada the situations under which this can happen. I have printed out the 7 pages and intend to bring it with me ‘just in case’.
Really glad you could find the information that can help you. Please report back your experience. It will be really helpful to others. I don’t know how long the 5 boxes will last, but that price is only a bit higher than what I pay in copays with insurance for 3 months of bolus/basal insulin. Like $13 more.
For me, the Lantus would last about 89 days. If I calculated it correctly. I use 28 units a day, 100 units per pen, 5 pens per box, 2500 units in 5 boxes… Hopefully it will be motorcycle season when I need to ride up and get the next batch!
Just left Canada. The Familiprix pharmacy it’s 600 yards over the boarder. US boarder patrol was no issue. I had called in three order yesterday and was in and out and back over the boarder in under 15 minutes! 5 boxes Lantus, 5 boxes Humalog and some ibuprofen total $619 US!