iyer1 KEREM YUCELAFP via Getty Images_insulin KEREM YUCELAFP via Getty Images

Insulin Belongs to the World

The number of people with diabetes worldwide is expected to rise dramatically in the next 20 years, particularly in lower-income countries, but insulin remains out of reach for millions. As more effective forms of insulin therapy become available, governments and pharmaceutical companies must do their part to increase access.

AMSTERDAM – After insulin was discovered in 1921, the Canadian scientists behind the breakthrough sold the patent for their formula for just C$1. As medical researcher Frederick Banting said at the time, they wanted to make it as widely available as possible because “it belongs to the world.” In the century since then, a host of improved forms of insulin have been developed, offering greater efficiency and convenience to people with diabetes. Yet millions still struggle to access any version of this lifesaving drug.

More than a half-billion adults are estimated to be living with diabetes, and this number is expected to reach nearly 800 million by 2045. For people with Type 1 diabetes, insulin transforms a deadly disease into a manageable condition. For those with the more common Type 2 form, insulin prevents kidney failure, blindness, and the risk of gangrene.

Sadly, poor availability and unaffordable prices mean that one in two people globally who need insulin to treat Type 2 diabetes lack access to it. The shortfall is most severe in low- and middle-income countries, where diabetes cases are rising at an alarming rate.

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