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Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders (from Facebook page)

On Sunday, July 28, 2019, United States Senator (Vermont) and Presidential Candidate, Bernie Sanders will join an organised caravan to Canada to purchase affordable insulin along with people living with type 1 diabetes in need. The cost of insulin in the US is 10-12 times more than insulin in Canada.  Currently 1 in 4 Americans with diabetes ration their insulin leading to complications, even death.

Along with 19 US Presidential candidates, Senator Sanders will take the stage for the Democratic Presidential Debate in Detroit, Michigan (US) over two nights, July 30-31.  Before he participates in the debate, Sanders will travel in a bus destined for an undisclosed pharmacy in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.  The goal?  To accompany fifteen people with type 1 diabetes in their pursuit of the lifesaving drug insulin, at an affordable cost.

“We can’t wait for drug companies to lower prices,” Senator Sanders tweeted earlier this month. “Americans need relief now!”

Sanders has long targeted pharmaceuticals for high prescription drug costs.  In 1999, he made a similar trip to Canada on behalf of women struggling with the high costs of drugs to combat breast cancer.  Currently Sanders has called on his Democratic rivals to reject campaign donations from the insurance and pharmaceutical drug industries.

The caravan is made up of an authentic group of diverse people living with type 1 diabetes in need; young and old; insured and uninsured; on Medicare or living with high deductibles out of reach.

Quinn Nystrom (@QuinnNystrom), Minnesota Chapter Leader for T1International and the #insulin4all movement, will be joining the caravan and was instrumental in the getting the event off the ground.  “The Bernie Sanders Campaign Team reached out to me in May 2019.  The Senator expressed his interest to participate with T1International’s affordable insulin caravans to Canada for a few months, but struggled to find time in his busy schedule,” she said in a telephone interview.

Since then, the Sanders Presidential Campaign Team sought to find the right moment.  As soon as it was clear the Detroit Democratic debate was taking shape, official plans were made.

“The caravan will be leaving from Detroit, Michigan (US) with a group of people needing insulin who were already scheduled to go.  The participants chosen did not know Senator Sanders was scheduled to join them.  In this way, the caravan is made up of an authentic group of diverse people living with type 1 diabetes in need; young and old; insured and uninsured; on Medicare or living with high deductibles out of reach. Since the official announcement, many people with type 1 diabetes have reached out asking if they could join.  We have had and continue to say no.  The people joining the caravan are in desperate need.  Senator Sanders will meet them and hear their personal stories,” says Nystrom.

Most of those joining Sanders on the caravan are people living with type 1 diabetes from Michigan who were recruited by Michigan Chapter Leader for T1 International, Jillian Rippolone (@T1Dchick).  Rippolone will also be on the caravan.  Once the caravan participants complete purchasing affordable insulin from the Canadian pharmacy, Senator Sanders will likely take comments from the press pool present on the trip.  “Media interest has been extremely high since the announcement was made,” says Nystrom.

“We’re at a tipping point with people in the US living with type 1 diabetes, rationing and dying.  The affordable insulin tour will be on every major media platform.  The high cost of insulin in the US is a  non-partisan issue, and for the first time, we’re on the world stage. Type 1 diabetes is finally getting the attention it deserves,”  says Nystrom.

Quinn Nystrom was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1999, has been advocating for type 1 diabetes as a speaker and an author since she was 16 years old.  T1International, a non-profit organization, supports local communities worldwide with advocacy tools to fight for rights, including access to affordable insulin and diabetes supplies.


Elizabeth Snouffer is Editor of Diabetes Voice

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