EghtesadOnline: President Hassan Rouhani has called on Health Minister Saeed Namaki to press for urgent action to end the shortage of insulin pens and blood test strips, which is causing serious hardship to people with diabetes.
In an open letter to the president, 120 specialists from Iranian medical schools expressed concerns over the dwindling supply of insulin pen and diabetes test strips. The letter reads:
“There are over five million persons with diabetes mellitus in Iran, of whom 600,000 require the daily administration of insulin and blood glucose test strips to monitor and control their diabetes. Lack of any of these two would make patients face the risks of drops in blood sugar level and unconsciousness or death in the short run, and limb amputation, heart attack, stroke and kidney disease in the long run.
“Diabetes also increases the risk of severe illness and death from Covid-19, which makes it even more important to direct special attention to people with diabetes while coping with the coronavirus crisis.
“In recent months, diabetic patients all over the country have frequently faced hurdles in getting access to insulin pens and blood test strips, the adequate supplies of which have been underscored by the World Health Organization.
“Despite information dissemination and regular correspondence of diabetes’ associations with the Central Bank of Iran and Health Ministry over the serious shortage of insulin pens and blood test strips, it seems that senior officials have misjudged the gravity of the situation in finding a solution. The outcomes of meetings with production and importing companies, as well as related organizations, show that the government has failed to provide the foreign currency needed for importing insulin pens and blood test strips. Contrary to what officials with the Food and Drug Administration of Iran claim, domestic production can’t meet the demand for these essential goods.
“The signatories of this letter are doctors, who have to daily bear witness the distress of mothers and fathers caused by their incapability in providing insulin pens and blood test strips for their diabetic child, or the elderly who have to look for these items from one pharmacy to another in the current dangerous environment of Covid-19.
“We believe the government is able to provide the needed insulin, but has not perceived the urgency of the issue. We now make the most earnest request for the president’s personal urgent call on the officials of Health Ministry and CBI to supply foreign currency needed to import these two essential items. The current serious situation should not be allowed to persist to endanger the health of fellow citizens and ruin the outcomes of achievement made by your government, including through the Health Overhaul Plan.”
Denmark Launches Insulin Pen Production Line in Iran
Barakat Pharmaceutical Industrial Town in Alborz Province has become the new home to Novo Nordisk’s first Flexpen—a prefilled disposable device for the delivery of long-acting insulin products—production line in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East region.
This is the company’s eighth insulin pen plant in the world.
“Operated by Novo Nordisk Pars, the subsidiary of Danish pharmaceutical giant, the plant will meet 30% of insulin pen requirement in Iran at its early stage of production,” says Kianoush Jahanpour, an official with the Health Ministry.
“After the expansion, the company will be in a position to increase its reach to diabetic patients in other countries in the region and North Africa.”
According to ISNA, the first phase of the plant has targeted the production of four products, namely NovoMix, Novorapid, Levemir and Victoza.
Later, the facility will produce long-acting insulin products like Tresiba. The plant has the capacity to produce over 25 million insulin pens within the first year of operation and 45 million in the second year.
The opening of this production line would save up to €50 million for the country in the first year and more than €60 million in the following years without taking into account its probable exports earnings.
Iraq, Afghanistan and other neighboring countries will be the first export destinations of the products.
Health Minister Saeed Namaki, who was present for the Monday inauguration via videoconferencing, said, “Today, we are witnessing the inauguration of one of the most important projects since the Islamic Revolution with the joint investment of Iran and Denmark.”
“Iranian diabetic patients require 800,000 insulin pens per month,” Mohammad Reza Shanesaz, the head of Iran’s Food and Drug Administration, told Mehr News Agency.
“The procurement of insulin is significantly foreign currency-intensive, which has been made harder during the difficult time of sanctions,” he added.
In 2015, Novo Nordisk, the world’s largest diabetes drugmaker, signed a memorandum of understanding with Iran’s Health Ministry to invest €70 million in the manufacturing of the pharmaceutical plant.
Novo Nordisk has been manufacturing in Iran through a local partner since 2002, serving about 700,000 Iranian diabetics through its manufacturing partnership.
“The long-term investment aims to transfer the production knowhow for the drugs using state-of-the-art equipment, and supply the Iranian market with quality diabetes drugs,” the company president and CEO, Lars Rebien Sorensen, said then.
Many of the 400 million diabetics in the world use Novo Nordisk products, offered by production facilities in seven nations, and affiliates or offices in 75 countries.
On June 21, Pooyesh Darou, an Iranian knowledge-based pharmaceutical company, inaugurated the first insulin pen production line in Iran at Pardis Khorramdasht Industrial Zone. The facility would produce insulin glargine 300 U/mL used to control high blood sugar in adults and children who are six years of age and older with diabetes mellitus.
About six million Iranians are suffering from diabetics. In 2019, approximately 463 million adults (20-79 years) were living with diabetes; by 2045, this will rise to 700 million. The proportion of people with type 2 diabetes is increasing in most countries, the International Diabetes Federation says.