Trump unveils plan to reduce drug prices so high some Americans head north for relief

SEATTLE — President Trump is calling it "the most sweeping action in history to lower the price of prescription drugs for the American people."

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​KIRO 7 is going in-depth tonight on how so many are hoping the president's plan could impact their drug prices in Western Washington.

Adam Kozie says the cost of his insulin drove him to make the trip north because the life-saving drug costs so much less there.

"It's about a fifth of what it costs here in the States.," he said. "That's taking insurance into account."

Kozie sat in his Capitol Hill apartment in front of the precious insulin he drives up to Canada to buy once a year. He says he was driven to act by one simple fact: the vial of insulin he once bought for about $50 began slowly creeping up.

"Then it became $80 one year," said Kozie. "And it took a little jump again a couple of years later. And it was $130, $140."

He complained to his doctor.

"And he said you know I have a lot of of my patients are going to Canada to buy this stuff," said Kozie.

What our neighbors to the north were charging is jaw-dropping.

"If I remember correctly, $33 Canadian," said Kozie. "So in 2016, it was $27 or something American when I did the math."

"A clinic of mine doesn't go by anymore without at least one person getting their insulin from another country, usually Canada," said his doctor, highly-regarded endocrinologist Irl Hirsch.

Hirsch has given the advice to "go north" to many of his patients.

"Because what I see is people are having to ration and miss their insulin because of the expense," said Dr. Hirsch. "Every day."

In announcing his blueprint, President Trump promises to change that.

"We will have tougher negotiations, more competition, and much lower prices at the pharmacy counter," said Trump.

"I do believe the president can do something about it, along with Congress," said longtime Ballard pharmacist Mike Donohue.

But this owner of Bob Johnson Pharmacy says to do that, the president's plan will need to rein in the person in the middle helping set the price of drugs -- the pharmacy benefits manager or PBM.

"And they make a lot of money," he said.

Take the drug Flonase. When it was a prescription-only, the pharmacist got the drug from the manufacturer for $140. But when its patent expired, Flonase was sold over the counter for just $16.

Donohue says the difference is it was being sold directly to consumers.

"But when it's hidden from them, they don't know that it's $140," said Donohue. "They just know it's a $20 co-pay. And their insurance company rates are going up and up and up.  They'll tend to think 'you know there isn't much I can do about it.' And you know there really isn't much that they can do about it."

The president's plan is already getting mixed reviews, with some saying it won't provide the relief consumers need.

But everyone KIRO 7 talked to Friday said they hope this is at least a step toward fixing a problem that will affect every American, whether now or later.