WHO Hopes To Drive Down High Insulin Prices

    “The amount of insulin available is too low and the price is too high.”


    It seems like the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a war against skyrocketing insulin prices. The health agency has been hoping to cut down the insulin cost by encouraging generic drug manufacturers to enter the world insulin market.

    The WHO is in the hope that pharma companies will be forced to decrease their prices by increasing the competition for insulin.

    Over the past 20 years, drug manufacturers have increased the cost of insulin from $35 a vial to $275, resulting in an insulin affordability crisis across the United States.

    Eli Lily, Sanofi, and Novo Nordisk are currently the only three pharma companies that are dominating the global insulin market. They significantly increased insulin prices over the past 30 years.

    WHO Head of Regulation of Medicines and other Health Technologies Emer Cooke said in a statement, “Four hundred million people are living with diabetes, the amount of insulin available is too low and the price is too high, so we really need to do something.”

    UN agencies, such as Doctors without Borders, can buy FDA-approved generic versions of insulin through a process known as “prequalification.”

    This is not the first time the WHO has come up with such a strategy. It also used a similar strategy to make HIV/AIDS medications more affordable in 2002, when more than 7,000 Africans were dying every year due to AIDS, as they were not able to afford the life-saving drugs. The price of the drugs was reduced to $75 a year from $15,000 a year.

    Director of the Affordable Insulin Now Campaign Rosemary Enobakhare called the new program “a good first step toward affordable insulin for all around the world.” However, she said it will not do much to help more than 30 million Americans with diabetes.

    Enobakhare noted that it requires “Congress to grant Medicare the power to negotiate drug prices” in order to lower insulin prices.

    In general, pharma companies that make generic drugs face difficulties in entering the US market because the FDA charges hefty fees for approvals of generic drugs.

    In Canada, insulin is ten times cheaper because its government negotiates with pharma companies, which is illicit in the United States. A vial of insulin costs only $6 to manufacture and can be purchased at $32 at pharmacies in Windsor, Ontario. And the same vial in Detroit costs around $340.

    In July, Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted, “It is time for a government that works for the American people, not drug companies’ profits.”

    The Democratic presidential candidate even took a bus full of Americans to Canada to address the out of control insulin cost in the United States. “Americans are paying $300 for insulin. In Canada they can purchase it for $30,” tweeted Sen. Sanders. “We are going to end pharma’s greed.”