WHO Looks To Cut ‘Overly Expensive’ Insulin Price, Make More Generic Versions

The World Health Organization (WHO) wants to address the growing problem with the price of insulin. It has launched a new initiative that aims to reduce the "overly expensive" price of the medication and put more of its generic versions in the market. 

The value of insulin significantly increased since its discovery in 1923. It was first sold at $1 per vial but its price dramatically increased over the past decades. 

Insulin costs climbed from $1 to more than $300 today. WHO aims to make insulin affordable again and to increase its access for people with diabetes across the world.

"Nearly a century after its discovery, there is still no inexpensive supply of insulin for people living with diabetes in North America,” according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. “Americans are paying a steep price for the continued rejuvenation of this oldest of modern medicines."

WHO estimates that there are nearly 20 million people currently living with type 1 diabetes worldwide. These people rely on regular insulin injections to manage their condition. 

There are 54 million people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. However, they only seek insulin in severe cases.

Generic Insulin

WHO said producing more generic versions of insulin could help address its growing price. The organization’s new initiative aims to encourage pharmaceutical companies to create cheaper but effective insulin, the BBC reported Thursday.
The same initiative was launched in 2001 that focused on HIV treatment. WHO gathered companies and developers that created low-cost medication that could help reduce the effects of the infection. 

WHO’s new initiative for diabetes patients will run for two years. 

“The simple fact is that the prevalence of diabetes is growing, the amount of insulin available to treat diabetes is too low, the prices are too high, so we need to do something,” Emer Cooke, a director at the WHO, said.

Oral Insulin Alternative 

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) published a report in early October detailing the development of an oral capsule that can deliver insulin into the body. The research aims to eliminate the need for commonly injected drugs. 

Described in the journal Nature Medicine, the oral insulin alternative works by carrying the medication into the lining of the small intestine and later releasing it into the bloodstream.

“We are really pleased with the latest results of the new oral delivery device our lab members have developed with our collaborators, and we look forward to hopefully seeing it help people with diabetes and others in the future,” Robert Langer, a senior study author and a professor at MIT, said.

The researchers worked with Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk to develop the capsule.

diabetes The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are more than 100 million adults living with diabetes or prediabetes in the U.S. Pixabay