India, known as the Generic Pharmacy of the World, has done it before whether it is cancer drugs or HIV drugs to pull down the global prices drastically. The same can happen with insulin prices too, if the current plan of World Health Organisation reaches its logical end.
According to reports, about 420 million people live with diabetes around the world need the hormone. About 65 million need insulin, as per the official records.
WHO has announced a two-year plan to bring down the prices and make insulin affordable for the type 2 diabetes patients. WHO has announced steps for prequalification of insulin for generic producers which will naturally cut down the prices.
Data collected by WHO in 2016-2019 from 24 countries on four continents showed that human insulin was available only in 61% of health facilities and analogue insulins in 13%. The data showed that a month’s supply of insulin would cost a worker in Accra, Ghana, the equivalent of 5.5 days of pay per month, or 22% of his/her earnings.
Insulin prequalification is one of a number of steps WHO will take in the coming year to address the diabetes burden. Plans are underway to update diabetes treatment guidelines, devise price reduction strategies for analogues and improve delivery systems and access to diagnostics. WHO also works with countries to promote healthier diets and physical activity to lower people’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The approval process, which the W.H.O. calls “prequalification,” will permit United Nations agencies and medical charities like Doctors Without Borders to buy approved generic versions of insulin.
The W.H.O. aims to duplicate its success in widening global access to H.I.V. drugs. Started in 2002, prequalification helped to rapidly lower the prices of these medications in poor and middle-income countries. At that time, nearly 7,000 Africans were dying of AIDS every day because they could not afford H.I.V. medications, for which Western drug companies charged up to $15,000 a year. Now the drugs are made in India, China and other countries with thriving generics industries, and they cost less than $75 a year. About 80 percent of the people in the world taking H.I.V. drugs are taking inexpensive generics tested and approved by the W.H.O.
Drug companies making insulin for domestic use exist in India, China, Poland, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Brazil, Mexico and Russia. Several have already expressed interest in entering the global market if they can win W.H.O. approval. But the insulin market is now dominated by just three companies.