WHO launches first-ever insulin programme to expand access to life-saving treatment for diabetes

GENEVA, The World Health Organisation,WHO, announced the start of a pilot programme to prequalify human insulin to increase treatment for diabetes in low-and middle-income countries.

The decision, announced on World Diabetes Day (14 November), is part of a series of steps WHO will take to address the growing diabetes burden in all regions. About 65 million people with type 2 diabetes need insulin, but only half of them are able to access it, largely due to high prices. All people with type 1 diabetes need insulin to survive.

“Diabetes is on the rise globally, and rising faster in low-income countries,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Too many people who need insulin encounter financial hardship in accessing it, or go without it and risk their lives. WHO’s prequalification initiative for insulin is a vital step towards ensuring everyone who needs this life-saving product can access it.”

WHO prequalification of insulin is expected to boost access by increasing the flow of quality-assured products on the international market, providing countries with greater choice and patients with lower prices.

Insulin was discovered as a treatment for diabetes almost 100 years ago and has been on WHO’s List of Essential Medicines since it was published in 1977.

Despite an ample supply, insulin prices are currently a barrier to treatment in most low- and middle-income countries. Three manufacturers control most of the global market for insulin, setting prices that are prohibitive for many people and countries.

Data collected by WHO in 2016-2019 from 24 countries on four continents showed that human insulin was available only in 61 percent of health facilities and analogue insulins in 13 percent.

More than 420 million people live with diabetes. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death and a major cause of costly and debilitating complications such as heart attacks, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and lower limb amputations.

Source: Emirates News Agency