The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced a program to reduce the "excessively expensive" price of insulin.
The UN agency wants other drug companies to produce generic insulin versions that they then test.
Since its discovery in 1
According to WHO, about 20 million people suffer from type 1 diabetes and need regular insulin injections to live.
The 54 million people worldwide with Type 2 diabetes use insulin only in severe cases.
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A generic version of a drug is chemically similar but manufactured by a pharmaceutical company other than the one that makes the existing drug.
The process of getting pharmaceutical companies to produce generic versions of an existing medicine and then testing it for quality and safety is called a pre-qualification program.
Once the generic version has passed the safety tests, it will be launched at a lower price on the world market.
WHO has successfully implemented similar programs in the past, especially for HIV medicines in 2001.
The UN agency announced the biennial initiative on Wednesday at a conference in the Swiss city of Geneva.
Emer Cooke, a director of WHO, said, "The simple fact is that the prevalence of diabetes is increasing, the amount of insulin available for treating diabetes is too low and prices are too high, something we need to do something."
How does insulin treat diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease characterized by high blood sugar (blood sugar).
Insulin is a hormone normally produced by the body. It controls blood sugar levels by sending glucose out of the blood stream into the cells where it is broken down.
There are two different types of diabetes.
Most common is type 2 diabetes, where the body either becomes resistant to insulin or does not make enough insulin. This can be triggered by an unhealthy diet or too little physical activity.
This can be achieved through other medications such as metformin as well as through exercise and a healthier diet.
Type 1 diabetes is different as it is a chronic disease in which the body produces little or no insulin itself.
Regular injections of manufactured insulin are needed to help the body regulate blood sugar levels.
Over time, high blood sugar levels can cause damage to the heart, eyes and kidneys.
Failure to treat diabetes can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and even death.