Over half a billion adults worldwide currently have diabetes. All those with Type 1 diabetes and many with Type 2 diabetes need insulin therapy to survive. Of the 72 million who need insulin, only half are able to access this essential lifesaving drug, largely due to high prices.
Last year 6.7 million deaths worldwide were attributed to diabetes. The situation is worse in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) since three of four adults with diabetes live in LMICs.
The dominance of three global insulin manufacturers, which hold 95% of the market share in LMICs, has meant that there is not enough competition to drive down insulin prices. Besides this, the replacement of cheaper human insulins with modern insulin analogs has created further barriers to access.
Biosimilar insulins, which are equivalent to the innovator reference product in terms of quality, efficacy, safety and immunogenicity, hold huge potential in expanding the choice of insulins in LMICs, thus increasing both availability and affordability of this therapy.
A few biosimilar insulins makers like Biocon Biologics based in developing countries are using the affordable innovation model and leveraging economies of scale to ensure this lifesaving product is priced within reach of those who need it. These biosimilars players do not put profits before patients, and hence keep margins low to enable equitable access to this essential therapy.
Committed to affordability
We are committed to removing economic barriers to access and are focused on making affordable products available since 2004, when our indigenously developed human insulin was made available in India at a fraction of the cost of imported insulins. More recently, through its Mission 10 Cents initiative, the company is offering LMIC governments, human insulin at less than 10 cents per day. The company’s biosimilar insulin analog product, Glargine, is making a difference to patients in developed countries, including the US, where it has been approved as an interchangeable biosimilar to Lantus. As a biosimilar, these products are offered at a much lower price than the originator to expand access.
It’s been more than 100 years since insulin was discovered, and it’s imperative today that insulin manufacturers commit themselves to lower prices of insulins and enable equitable access to people with diabetes. We are committed to play our part and aspire to take our affordable insulins to at least one in five insulin-dependent diabetes patients worldwide.
(The writer is Executive Chairperson , Biocon Ltd and Biocon Biologics Ltd. Views are personal.)