Insulin Preparations and Glucose Meter on Orange Background.

WHO calls for price cuts for insulin

Many people with diabetes depend on insulin because their body can no longer produce it itself. But the pharmaceutical manufacturers let the life-saving hormone pay dearly. The WHO no longer wants to stand by and watch.

100 years after the dis­co­very of insu­lin, mil­li­ons of dia­be­tics world­wi­de still do not have access to the life-saving hor­mo­ne. Accord­ing to the World Health Orga­niz­a­ti­on (WHO), the­re are many rea­sons for this, as it wri­tes on World Dia­be­tes Day on Sunday: Among other things, the health sys­tems in too many coun­tries are too weak, insu­lin pri­ces are too high, dri­ven by the popu­la­ri­ty of expen­si­ve insu­lin ana­lo­gues, and the Com­pe­ti­ti­on is low becau­se three manu­fac­tu­rers domi­na­te the market.

Insu­lin has beco­me a bil­li­on dol­lar mar­ket, cri­ti­ci­zed WHO boss Tedros Adha­nom Ghe­breye­sus. “The sci­en­tists who dis­co­ve­r­ed insu­lin 100 years ago refu­sed to pro­fit from it and sold the patent for just a dol­lar,” he said. This ges­tu­re of soli­da­ri­ty no lon­ger app­lies today.

The hor­mo­ne insu­lin regu­la­tes the upt­a­ke of glu­co­se in body cells. It is necessa­ry for peop­le with the meta­bo­lic dis­or­der dia­be­tes mel­li­tus, which cau­ses hyper­gly­ce­mia. That’s why it’s also cal­led “Sugar Dise­a­se”. Insu­lin is made by the islet cells of the pan­cre­as. Fre­de­rick Ban­ting and Charles Best at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to were the first to obtain insu­lin from pan­crea­tic tis­sue in 1921.

In July 1921, they were able to iso­la­te the hor­mo­ne from a dog’s pan­cre­as for the first time. A mile­stone in medi­ci­ne, becau­se until then the­re were no tre­at­ment opti­ons for dia­be­tes. Short­ly after the dis­co­very, pati­ents could be suc­cess­ful­ly trea­ted with insu­lin from ani­mals. In 1923, Ban­ting recei­ved the Nobel Pri­ze in Medi­ci­ne for this. He shared the pri­ze money with Best.

New drugs possible

Accord­ing to WHO esti­ma­tes, around nine mil­li­on peop­le live with type 1 dia­be­tes, an auto­im­mu­ne dise­a­se in which the insu­lin-pro­du­cing cells in the pan­cre­as are des­troy­ed. Around 60 mil­li­on peop­le live with type 2 dia­be­tes. The effect of insu­lin in the body’s cells is redu­ced. More than 80 per­cent of this type of dia­be­tes is asso­cia­ted with obe­si­ty, wri­tes the Ger­man Dia­be­tes Foun­da­ti­on. Without insu­lin admi­nis­tra­ti­on, the­se peop­le are at risk of kid­ney fail­u­re, blind­ness or ampu­ta­ti­ons. Only half of peop­le with type 2 dia­be­tes take insu­lin, accord­ing to the WHO. 80 per­cent of dia­be­tics live in poo­rer countries.

Among other things, the WHO is deman­ding more invest­ment in pro­duc­tion in order to crea­te grea­ter com­pe­ti­ti­on so that pri­ces fall. Insu­lin has been gene­ti­cal­ly engi­nee­red sin­ce the 1980s. To this day, insu­lin the­ra­py is vital for peop­le with type 1 dia­be­tes. Around 90 per­cent of insu­lin is now manu­fac­tu­red by three com­pa­nies: Eli Lil­ly (USA), Novo Nor­disk (Den­mark) and Sano­fi (Fran­ce).

Abo­ve all, the pro­duc­tion of so-cal­led human insu­lin must incre­a­se. The human gene for insu­lin is built into the gene­tic mate­ri­al of intes­ti­nal bac­te­ria or yeast fun­gi. It is just as effec­ti­ve but signi­fi­cant­ly che­a­per than insu­lin ana­lo­gues. The­se pre­vai­led on the mar­ket becau­se they take effect more quick­ly due to a dif­fe­rent struc­tu­re of the ami­no acid sequence.



Sta­te: 06/20/2022, 11:43 am

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