WHO moves to make insulin more accessible for diabetes patients

The headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) is pictured in Geneva [Photo Credit: VOANEWS]

The World Health Organisation on Thursday announced a pilot programme to ‘prequalify’ human insulin as an alternative means in the treatment of diabetes in low and middle income countries such as Nigeria.

This is expected to make insulin products more accessible and affordable for the treatment of diabetic patients in countries with low income levels.

This decision was announced in a press statement on Wednesday ahead of the World Diabetes Day.

The World Diabetes Day is celebrated on November 14. The day is to create awareness on the deadly disease which is one of the ten highest causes of death globally.

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces.

Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar.

The rise in blood sugar is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes and over time leads to serious damage to many of the body’s systems, especially the nerves and blood vessels.

The cost of buying insulin product is too high and most people who need it cannot afford it.

‘Prequalification can lead to lower price’

WHO said the pilot programme will help increase treatment of diabetes using human insulin at a much cheaper price.

WHO Director General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said the diabetes is on the rise globally, and rising faster in low-income countries.

“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.”

The UN agency said the decision is part of a series of steps it is taking to address the growing diabetes burden in all regions.

The WHO Prequalification of Medicines Programme contributes to accelerating and increasing access to critical medical products that are quality-assured, affordable and adapted for markets in low- and middle-income countries.

The programme does this by evaluating medical products developed by manufacturers to ensure their quality, safety and efficacy, in turn expanding the pool of available quality medicines.

WHO said the 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.

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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”, the agency said.

The prequalification is expected to gives room for countries to make bulk purchases of vaccines, diagnostics and other critical products at lower prices.

Assistant Director General for Medicines and Health products, Mariângela Simão, said prequalifying products from additional companies “will hopefully help to level the playing field and ensure a steadier supply of quality insulin in all countries.”

The agency also added that, aside the insulin prequalification, “plans are also underway to update diabetes treatment guidelines, devise price reduction strategies for analogues and improve delivery systems and access to diagnostics”.

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