The number of diabetes cases continues to rise over time, and more and more people are relying on insulin to maintain their health and save their lives every day. Although insulin prices have been skyrocketing recently, there has not been an all-out shortage of the medication—yet.
A new study published in the journal Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology predicts that this problem will be coming soon. The team used data from the International Diabetes Federation and 14 other studies to model how the need for insulin will change over the next several years and whether insulin production will keep up with that need. And their results are disturbing.
“The number of adults with type 2 diabetes is expected to rise over the next 12 years due to aging, urbanization and associated changes in diet and physical activity,” said lead researcher Dr. Sanjay Basu, assistant professor of medicine at Stanford University in the US.
In just 12 years, the number of people suffering from diabetes is expected to increase from 406 million to 511 million. According to the study, 40 million of those people may be lacking the insulin they need to survive because of an issue with supply not keeping up with demand for the product. The number of people worldwide who will need insulin to control their diabetes is expected to grow to about 79 million adults by 2030, and if production levels do not start increasing from their current levels soon, only about half of them will have access to insulin.
The African, Asian and Oceania regions will likely be the hardest hit by this shortage, but it’s sure to have repercussions closer to home as well, especially as the increased demand continues to drive up the already high prices for the drug. Those who are unable to access enough insulin will be threatened by diabetic complications like blindness, amputation, kidney failure, stroke, and even death.
“These estimates suggest that current levels of insulin access are highly inadequate compared to projected need, particularly in Africa and Asia, and more efforts should be devoted to overcoming this looming health challenge,” said Dr. Basu. “Despite the UN’s commitment to treat non-communicable diseases and ensure universal access to drugs for diabetes, across much of the world insulin is scarce and unnecessarily difficult for patients to access.”
Currently, the global insulin market is dominated by three manufacturers, and consumers remain at their mercies as the need for insulin rises faster than production.
“Unless governments begin initiatives to make insulin available and affordable, then its use is always going to be far from optimal,” said Dr. Basu.
This is unacceptable for people who depend on insulin for their wellbeing. Hopefully, this research has come in time to make a significant impact on the future production of insulin, if only pharmaceutical companies will take heed of it before it’s too late for so many people.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?