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Diabetes: UN to tackle "overpriced" insulin prices



Two WHO executives at the Geneva ConventionImage copyright
EPA

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The two-year project was announced today

The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced a scheme to reduce the "too expensive" price of insulin.

The UN agency wants other drug companies to produce generic versions of insulin, which they will then test.

Since its discovery in 1923, the price of insulin has risen in America from 1 (78 pp) per bottle to about $ 300 (233 pounds).

About 20 million people have type 1 diabetes and need regular insulin injections to live, according to the WHO.

54 million people worldwide with type 2 diabetes only use insulin in severe cases.

  • The human cost of insulin in America
  • How Much Does Diabetes Cost in the UK?

The generic version of the drug is chemically similar, but manufactured by another pharmaceutical company than those producing an existing drug.

The process for pharmaceutical companies to produce generic versions of existing drugs and then to test for quality and safety is known as a pre-qualification program.

Once the generic version passes the safety tests, it is introduced to the global market at a cheaper price, which reduces the cost of the drug.

The WHO has successfully run similar schemes in the past, especially for HIV drugs in 2001.

The UN agency announced the two-year initiative Wednesday at a conference in the Swiss city of Evaneva.

Emer Cook, director of WHO, said: "The simple fact is that the prevalence of diabetes is increasing, the amount of insulin available to treat diabetes is too low, prices are too high, so we need to do something."

How does insulin treat diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease characterized by high blood glucose levels (blood sugar).

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Getty Images

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Three manufacturers control most of the global insulin market

Insulin is a hormone that is normally produced by the body. It controls blood sugar levels by moving glucose from the bloodstream and into the cells where it breaks down.

There are two different types of diabetes.

The most common is type 2 diabetes, where the body either becomes insulin resistant or does not make enough insulin. This can be caused by unhealthy diet or insufficient physical activity.

This can be managed through other medications such as metformin as well as exercise and a healthier diet.

Type 1 diabetes is different because it is a chronic condition when the body produces little or no insulin per se.

Injections of manufactured insulin are needed regularly to help the body regulate blood sugar levels.

Over time, high blood sugar levels can cause damage to the heart, eyes and kidneys.

If left untreated, diabetes can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and even death.

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