What if you couldn’t access your life-saving medication?

A large number of people living with type 1 do not have access to their crucial supply of insulin. “For some parents in parts of Africa, having a child die from diabetes is a relief. They no longer have to foot the bill for insulin, which means they can pay to send their other children to school,” says Deborah Cohen in her article about access to insulin. A host of problems linked with distribution, tendering and government policies make accessibility and affordability of insulin troublesome.

David Beran says in his article, “Improving access to insulin: what can be done?”, that a third of the people in the world do not have regular or guaranteed accesses to their essential and live-saving medicines: “Attention has focused on the issue of access to medicines for HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria, but not on access to essential medicines for noncommunicable diseases, including insulin. Insulin has been widely available in the Western world since its discovery in 1921, but in resource-poor settings access to insulin is still problematic due to international and national barriers to access.” .

His article discusses the importance of looking at existing international barriers, like patents and prices, saying that the best possible price for medications needs to be made available to countries. One month’s supply of insulin can cost almost 20 days’ wages in some places around the world, so price is definitely an issue.

Beran notes that assuring better prices could be done through practices like bulk tendering, where a group of countries joins together to order large quantities of medicine at one time, which would increase bargaining power. Generic and local production of insulin are also alternative solutions which may reduce the price of the medicine. However, in some countries generic insulin is still not offered despite high percentages of other medications being generic.

National barriers like exchange rates, policies, and health expenditure are also discussed, and Beran says that these need to be clearly understood so that appropriate solutions can be found. Beran is the Advisor to the Board of Trustees of the International Insulin Foundation (IIF) – founded by prominent academics and medical personnel in the field of diabetes. The IFF developed an 11 point Rapid Assessment Protocol for Insulin Access (RAPIA) which targets and identifies barriers to allow more specific corrective action to take place. You can see the reports that have been conducted on six different countries here.

Another barrier to insulin access can be combated by ensuring that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes are at the forefront of the global health agenda. Beran noted that as of 2011, NCDs received 15-times less funding than diseases like HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria, but that issue will be tackled in future posts.

All of the points mentioned here are essential to target in the plight to increase access to insulin across the globe, but awareness and understanding of these issues is also essential. Tell someone about this problem and explain to them why insulin is just as necessary and life-saving as HIV medication. Then check out the NCD Alliance web page to see one way you can get involved.


2 thoughts on “What if you couldn’t access your life-saving medication?

  1. Pingback: There are things we should know. | T1International

  2. Pingback: Stereotypes and Cultural Influences on Diabetes | T1International

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