Why Americans Are Getting Their Insulin from Mexico

We walked across the border with a diabetic on a mission

CHULA VISTA, California — Type 1 diabetics need insulin to live, but prices for some brands in the U.S. have tripled or more over the last 10 years. That's not the case in Mexico. In fact, the cost disparity is so huge that it's sending American diabetics south of the border.

People like Lauren Hyre. Now the Arizona chapter leader of the nonprofit T1International that helps diabetics access affordable insulin, she was diagnosed with diabetes at age 8. And her family always had to deal with insulin insecurity.

"Before I moved out of the house, my family was just always scrambling. We would get enough insulin for one month and then start planning again for the next month," Hyre told VICE News. They would stock up any way they could — from getting expired samples from her doctor to getting surplus from other diabetics to going over the northern border for cheap Canadian insulin.

Hyre lives in Phoenix now and regularly heads to Mexico to stock up on insulin, especially when her insurance resets and she hasn’t met her deductible. She was VICE News' tour guide on the mission to find much cheaper insulin in Mexico.

The insulin Hyre bought in Mexico actually started as crystals at Eli Lilly’s main manufacturing plant in Indianapolis. So we headed there. VICE was the first TV news crew to tour the facility where much of the world’s insulin is made — at one of only three U.S. companies that provide insulin for about 90% of the world.

The reasons for the drug's high cost are complicated, and they're not changing anytime soon. VICE News examines what would need to happen to lower the price of insulin in the U.S.