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