Fort Erie, Canada - NBC Nightly News reports that the price of insulin, which is used to treat Diabetes,  has shot up more than 1,000 percent in the U.S. in the past 20 years. In fact, it's estimated the U.S. now spends more than $322 billion dollars each year to treat the disease.

It has reached the point where some families are now taking desperate measures to get the vital medication their children and loved ones need to survive. That includes turning to the black market as some parents rely on secret online groups to swap and trade the insulin that their insurance covers so that they can obtain the insulin for their kids.

Back in February, a similar situation unfolded with another drug many people depend on for epileptic seizures. A Two On Your Side investigation with Reporter Steve Brown found that people here could get epipens much cheaper and legally at pharmacies in Canada.
 
2 On Your Side was able to confirm and verify that the same is true for insulin. We determined that the injectable form of insulin in a pre-loaded pen is actually much, much less expensive in Canada then in the U.S. That's crucial for some people with diabetes who need the insulin to control blood sugar levels  And considering that about eleven percent of Western New York residents are diabetic, according to a local doctor at UBMD Internal Medicine, it's especially important.
 
At the Remedy's RX drug store in Fort Erie, Ontario, Canadian pharmacist Gerard Longval says diabetics from the U.S. do seek out the price savings when it comes to life saving insulin. Again, especially when it comes to the so-called injectables which are those pens pre-loaded with cartridges.
 
Longva says "Humolog Quick pens - pack of five was five hundred dollars in the states and over here it's 75 dollars Canadian. And right now the American dollar is very strong. It's like 35 percent savings. On top of the 75 dollars."    
  
Dr. Ajay Chadhuri, who is an endocrinologist with UBMD Internal Medicine, says diabetic patients in the U.S. are seeking alternatives as insurance costs, deductibles, and co-pays have soared right along with the soaring cost of insulin. So it''s not surprising that pharmacist Longval would be seeing the shocking margin of price difference.
 
That is also especially the case for individuals without health insurance who must shoulder all the costs.
So what can explain this disparity in pricing for insulin which can literally keep people alive?
 
Longval's perspective is this "It's dictated by the drug companies. Why it's more expensive in the United States I'm not too sure." 
Reporter: "And these are the same products? Correct?"
Longval: "They are the same products as, like Lilly makes the Humology Quick pens. Sanofi makes Lantus. And then we've got the Novanortis making your Novarapid, all of them are, the parent companies are in the states."     
 
Dr. Chaudree from UBMD Internal Medicine says some diabetic patients have turned to Walmart for a $26 dollar dose of insulin used with a syringe. But that's a much older formulation which can work for some while others require more modern forms of insulin.
 
Chaudree says in some hardship cases diabetics have also been able to get help with more moderately priced insulin from pharmaceutical firms through their websites. But there are no guarantees.
 
Our sister TEGNA station KUSA-TV in Denver also looked into this issue last November. They reported that     only three companies make insulin and they all compete with each other price-wise which drives the cost up. Also with no generics on the market, companies are free to raise the average list price to nearly 300-dollars a vial. That's why some say, the system is broken. 
 
They also reported in November that the president of the Medicine and Science at the American Diabetes Association stated 'no one in need of life saving insulin should ever go without it due to prohibitive cost.' In a resolution the American Diabetes Association called on 'all entities in the insulin supply chain to substantially increase transparency in pricing associated with the delivery of insulin. The resolution also asked Congress to hold hearings to identify the reason behind the 'dramatic increases in insulin prices.'