Geneva, 1 October 2021 — Diabetes is a chronic, progressive disease that can be controlled with effective treatment. However, in many countries, people living with diabetes are not getting the treatment they need to stay healthy and alive. 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%, with the largest increase predicted in Africa (143%). Barriers to accessing insulin are largely due to high prices, challenging storage requirements and complex treatment protocols.
MSF works in over 70 countries worldwide and in most of these settings, insulin is often not available in public health facilities or private pharmacies. MSF provides treatment and care for diabetes in multiple projects across a number of countries (including Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Bangladesh), to people living in resource-limited and humanitarian settings.
Candice Sehoma, Advocacy Officer in South Africa, MSF Access Campaign
“MSF welcomes the ongoing focus on access to diabetes treatment by the World Health Organization (WHO), now through the addition of more insulin products to the Essential Medicines List (EML). With the experience of providing diabetes treatment in low-resource settings and humanitarian emergencies, we know how important it is to continue to address the gaps in access to treatment for people with diabetes, and to recognize its urgency especially for those living with type 1 diabetes.
“We hope that the WHO and companies manufacturing insulin will waste no time in ensuring the availability of more affordable quality-assured biosimilar insulins to meet people’s growing need for this lifesaving medicine. In places where we work, people with diabetes are either forced to purchase insulin in the private sector at its full price, ration it so that the supply lasts longer, or go without if they can’t afford it.
“It is preposterous that this medicine discovered 100 years ago still remains inaccessible to half of the people who need it. The WHO and governments must demand pharmaceutical corporations open their books to show why prices for various types of insulins remain so high, especially the analogue insulins just added to the WHO essential medicines list. Unless the price of all types of insulin and the medical supplies required to inject and monitor this treatment comes down, governments will continue to struggle to manage this controllable disease and people with diabetes will keep dying.”