The number of adults living with diabetes across the world has increased four-fold since 1980, but access to insulin is a big problem in poor nations, says the World Health Organization (WHO).
It warns in a report that cases of the disease in adults are estimated to have nearly quadrupled from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014, spurred by increases in risk factors such as unhealthy diets and obesity.
In the ‘Global report on diabetes,’ published 7 April 2016, the WHO says global prevalence of the disease nearly doubled to 8.5% of the adult population, up from 4.7% in 1980, and urges governments to step up prevention and treatment, including enhancing availability and access to affordable insulin.
Margaret Chan, director general of WHO, advises, “If we are to make any headway in halting the rise of diabetes, we need to rethink our daily lives: to eat healthy, be physically active and avoid excessive weight gain.”
Etienne Krug, director of the department for the management of non-communicable diseases at the WHO, says that access to a broad range of medicines and technologies for diabetes, including insulin, “remains a big problem, particularly in low-income countries where only 23% report widespread availability”.
The report shows poor nations generally pay more for insulin than rich countries because of a variety of factors, including mark ups throughout the system, including import duties, value added taxes, pharmacy costs, and storage and transportation costs.
In 2014, the median annual price for a 10ml vial of 100 IU of insulin in a low income country was USD$10 and in a high income country it was much less – close to USD$4. Some countries, such as Vietnam, Mexico and Nicaragua, are making insulin available free of charge, while others, like Mozambique and Zambia, subsidise it.