Fifty low- and middle-income countries are soon to receive insulin for people with diabetes, thanks to a donation by global health-care company, Novo Nordisk.
The donation, of insulin and glucagon, to the value of US$ 1.3 million, comes at a time when many people with noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes are facing challenges with access to life-saving treatment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For many people living with diabetes these are difficult times,” said Professor Andrew Boulton, President of the International Diabetes Federation. “They are both vulnerable to the severe effects of COVID-19 and struggling with day-to-day problems managing their diabetes, such as disrupted access to medication, equipment and health care. Initiatives to secure the supply of essential diabetes medicines, and of insulin in particular, are very welcome.”
“We are very grateful for this timely donation of insulin,” said Dr Bente Mikkelsen, Director of the Department of Noncommunicable Diseases at WHO. “It is the first donation of a medicine for a noncommunicable disease to WHO and it comes at a critical point.“
The selection of countries to receive this donation was based on their income group and information provided to WHO by ministries of health on the capacity of their health systems to manage storage and supply at a time when transport systems have been disrupted and health-care systems are stretched.
In order to meet the long-term needs of people with diabetes, however, a sustainable supply of insulin, provided at prices that countries can afford, is needed.
“We must not forget that as we approach the centenary of the discovery of insulin many people globally still face multiple hurdles in accessing insulin on a daily basis in normal circumstances,” said Dr Kaushik Ramaiya, Chair of the International Insulin Foundation.
The donation comes several months after the inclusion of insulin in WHO’s prequalification programme, which accelerates and increases access to critical medical products that are quality-assured, affordable and adapted for markets in low- and middle-income countries.
The effort to ensure a regular, affordable supply of insulin is just one of a number of strategies implemented by WHO to improve treatment of diabetes. In April, the Organization launched updated guidance on diagnosis, classification and management of type 2 diabetes intended for all those involved in planning and delivery of diabetes care. WHO also works with countries to promote healthy diets and physical activity to lower people’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Countries are addressing diabetes as part of the Sustainable Development Goals, committing to cut premature death from diabetes and other noncommunicable diseases by one third by 2030.