Insulin and where to get inexpensive medical supplies
The word insulin is seldom mentioned in response to a question such as ‘where to get inexpensive medical supplies?’ As a matter of fact, and according to an article published in The Lancet, “although insulin is essential for the survival of people with type 1 diabetes and is needed for improved management of diabetes for some people with type 2 diabetes, very little has been done globally to address the issue of access.” On the one hand the authors list selling prices, duties, taxes, mark-ups, and other supply chain costs as reasons that make insulin unaffordable to healthcare systems and patients. On the other, and unlike drugs for HIV and AIDS, the production of generic insulin hasn’t had an effect on the market in general.
When it comes to insulin, knowing where to get inexpensive supplies can make the difference between life and death. By way of example, people with type 1 diabetes would die in a few weeks without insulin. “Poor access to insulin translates into a life expectancy for a child with type 1 diabetes in sub-Saharan Africa as low as one year,” the authors of the report write. Furthermore, “access to insulin and poor health outcomes are not issues only for low-income and middle-income countries.” For example, in the United States, discontinuation of insulin as a result of its cost is the main cause of diabetic ketoacidosis in inner city dwellers. Insulin access has become an issue in Europe as well, as a consequence of financial crises and burdens on health budgets.
This sad state of affairs is a reality despite the facts that insulin has been in the World Health Organization’s Model List of Essential Medicines since 1997, and that it is currently off patent – which means that intellectual property is not an problem. However, pen devices – which are being increasingly used to administer insulin – are patented, and that might constitute an obstacle to access. Additionally, the issue of access to essential drugs for non-communicable diseases (e.g., diabetes) has not received the same amount of attention as access to medicines for HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. The global insulin market is for all intents and purposes a monopoly; three multinational companies control 99% of it – and 100% of the American market. This might limit price competition and allow these companies to shape the market at will.
In light of the growth in analogue insulin use – and the resulting spike in cost – as well as the disappearance of animal insulin in the 1999-2009 period and the decreased use of human insulin plus the rising consumption of analogue insulin (which is higher-priced even though a WHO committee stated “that insulin analogues currently offer no significant clinical advantage over recombinant human insulin and there is still concern about possible long-term adverse effects.”), the authors of the study outlined the following calls to action:
· Allocating 5% of diabetes funds for innovation in the delivery of care and insulin.
· Including insulin in universal health coverage benefit packages.
· Investigating prequalification of insulin, developing a regulatory framework for biosimilars and insulin, and promoting existing guidelines and methods for effective purchasing of drugs for insulin therapy.
· Developing a global compact with the insulin industry to ensure that human insulin and insulin in vial form will not be taken off the market.
· Making sure that organizations and academics speak with a unified voice when calling for improved diabetes care.
The researchers also write that “one of the six key responsibilities of a health system is to ensure equitable access to essential medicines of assured quality, safety, efficacy, and cost-effectiveness.” Of course, that’s easier said than done. In the meantime, diabetes patients can offset the costs of the drug by buying medical supplies online at Discount Medical Supplies. For instance, the proper diabetic storage accessories can keep one’s medications from untimely deterioration. Give the high cost of and lack of access to insulin, diabetics cannot afford to let their medicine go bad, as it were. Other insulin products include pen needles, syringes, and lancets. The more you save on these insulin supplies, the more money you will have left to pay for the actual medication.