According to this article a full 50% of the 100 million people worldwide who need insulin do not have a reliable, affordable supply.
Insulin is one of the world’s most essential medications, and prices have skyrocketed in recent years. It’s even more infuriating when you learn that the inventor of insulin gave the patent away in an effort to make the life saving medication affordable to everyone, as you can read in the second linked article below.
One problem is that 96% of the market is controlled by three big manufacturers who keep prices high. The World Health Organization has come up with a plan to certify generic versions of insulin in an effort to bring costs down and allow smaller manufacturers to compete.
The WHO’s pilot program is designed to put non-brand versions of insulin on the market — geared toward the developing world. It centers on a process called “prequalification,” which the WHO developed in 2001. It’s a system that allows drug manufacturers to get a stamp of approval from the WHO.
Part of the WHO’s confidence in this program comes from previous experience. It has prequalified other drugs before, particularly those used to treat tuberculosis, malaria and HIV. In the case of HIV medication, it lowered prices significantly.
“When we opened prequalification to generic manufacturers [of HIV antiretrovirals], the price went down after three years, from $10,000 per person per year to $300 per person per year,” Cooke says. She hopes to repeat history with insulin.
Hopefully programs like this one will soon make it possible for everyone in the world to access insulin and other essential life saving medications in the future. I have linked a second article further explaining the reasons for the current high cost of insulin.