Of the Rs 50,000 (US$645) Harsh Kohli earns per month, he spends over Rs 20,000 (US$260) on diabetes management for himself and his nine-year-old son. Over half of this amount goes to just insulin, a protein crucial to maintaining stable blood sugar levels. 

As of 2020, India had over 74 million people wrestling with the dreaded disease, according to the International Diabetes Federation. But not all of them fall under the oft-discussed ‘lifestyle disease’ that’s Type II diabetes. 

Those like the Kohlis have Type I diabetes, the genetic kind that requires insulin every day. And Kohli, aged 41, has seen his insulin expenditure jump drastically in four years. This is in line with the nearly 46% hike in insulin prices—an over 10% year-on-year hike—according to The Ken’s calculations after analysing sales and retail pricing data from multiple sources. India has around 5 million diabetes patients dependent on insulin. 

Survival game

While both types of diabetes develop due to a lack of insulin, with Type 1, the body attacks the pancreas and renders it unable to produce insulin on its own. Without insulin, it takes the body just a week or two to shut down. Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics need insulin

For instance, the price of a single 3 ml cartridge of Novorapid (where 1ml contains 100 units of insulin or IU) rose from Rs 530 (~US$7) in 2018 to Rs 774 (US$10) in 2022. Novorapid is an advanced form of rapid-acting insulin rapid-acting insulin Rapid-acting insulin Rapid-acting insulins are usually taken just before or with a meal. They act very quickly to minimise the rise in blood sugar that follows eating , manufactured by Danish multinational Novo Nordisk and marketed by US-based pharmaceutical company Abbott. 

India isn’t alone when it comes to rising insulin prices. World over, the price of the life-saving hormone has risen steadily over the years. In the US, a 10 ml vial of Novolog retailed at around US$354 in October 2021 October 2021 Good RX How Much Does Insulin Cost? Here’s How 28 Brands and Generics Compare Read more , up from the US$289 it cost in mid-2018 mid-2018 Bloomberg Drugmakers cancel price hikes Read more —a 22% jump in three years. Novorapid is marketed as Novolog in the US.

Depending on the prescription, a patient may need more than three cartridges per month.

AUTHOR

Maitri Porecha

Maitri writes about everything health for The Ken. For close to 10 years now, she has navigated hospital corridors in her search for a good story. In a past life, when she was not a journalist, she used to teach French at her neighbourhood school. Also an avid fan of forensics, she is always up for decoding mysteries in her free time.

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