In MSF projects, prices of human insulin range from $2.30 to $12.15 per 10mL vial. In non-communicable disease (NCD) programs, insulin ranks among the top five most expensive medicines and has been an issue when considering the number of people MSF is able to treat.
“Without insulin, people living with type 1 diabetes will be extremely ill and die within days to weeks,” said Dr. Abdulmalik Wanyama, hospital director for MSF’s Dagahaley project in Kenya. “We witness this often in our projects, where patients arrive in our emergency rooms simply because they are unable to access insulin on time, or had to ration its use. We really hope this resolution prioritizes transparency regarding the pricing of insulin and the bundle of medical supplies required to inject it and monitor blood glucose levels. This is vital for supporting low- and middle-income countries in planning and implementing diabetes treatment programs.”
Diabetes is a chronic, progressive disease that can be controlled with effective treatment and affects nearly half a billion people worldwide. The prevalence of diabetes has nearly doubled over the past 30 years and is now rising faster in low- and middle-income countries than in high-income countries. It is estimated that by 2045 the number of people with diabetes will rise globally by 51 percent, with the largest increase predicted in Africa (143 percent). While the probability of premature deaths from any of the other four main NCDs—including cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and chronic respiratory diseases—has decreased by 18 percent globally between 2000-2016, the risk of premature death from diabetes increased 5 percent during the same period.
“Having a specific resolution on diabetes would not only signal political commitment to treat this disease but would also lay the foundation to prevent the further escalation of complications such as cardiovascular and renal disease, as well as reduce the impact of COVID-19 on this vulnerable population,” Bygrave said.
MSF works in more than 70 countries worldwide. In most of these settings, insulin is often not available in public health facilities or private pharmacies. MSF has been engaged in providing treatment for diabetes care in multiple projects across a number of countries—including Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Bangladesh—to people living in resource-limited and humanitarian settings.