Healthy Living

Study Predicts 40 Million People with Diabetes Might Be Without Insulin by 2030

According to a new study, access to insulin may fall short by 2030. Learn how this could affect millions of diabetic patients.

Study Predicts 40 Million People with Diabetes Might Be Without Insulin by 2030

According to a new study, diabetic patients' access to insulin may fall short by the year 2030. Diabetes diagnoses continue to rise in numbers, and it's predicted that approximately 79 million adults with type 2 diabetes will require insulin to manage it. Because of the current levels of insulin available, only half of those 79 million adults will be able to treat their diabetes with an appropriate supply. This study was published in the Journal Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology.

African, Asian and Oceania regions will be the most affected. Dr. Sanjay Basu, assistant professor of medicine at Stanford University in the US, who led the research, said, "These estimates suggest that current levels of insulin access are highly inadequate compared to the projected need, particularly in Africa and Asia, and more efforts should be devoted to overcoming this looming health challenge," 

The United Nations is committed to treating noncommunicable disease like type 2 diabetes and ensuring access to the medications is available. However, across much of the world, insulin is hard to have access to.

Patients with type 1 diabetes are required to treat their condition with insulin, and it is also becoming more necessary for those with type 2 diabetes.

Manufactured insulin has been a godsend to those who have insulin-dependent diabetes. Before the invention of externally manufactured insulin, type 1 diabetes patients had no chance at a long life, and those with type 2 diabetes suffered terribly. It has long been a medical fact that if the body cannot generate adequate amounts of insulin, patients must have it supplied externally to regulate their body's insulin.

Every year, there are millions around the world who die because diabetes. It's a dreaded “modern” disease found in developed and underdeveloped countries, caused by an inadequate insulin production in the pancreas. 

The absence of insulin means the glucose builds up in the blood and cells are deprived of an energy source. The absence of insulin causes several problems and increases the risk of heart problems, neuropathy, nephropathy, retinopathy, foot damage and skin conditions.  If your body does not produce any or adequate amounts of insulin, it needs to be taken artificially. People with diabetes are incapable of producing insulin naturally, and they need help from artificial sources.

Insulin was first successfully manufactured in 1921 when Canadian scientists Frederick G. Banting and Charles H. Best purified insulin from a dog’s pancreas. Then in 1936 researchers found a way to make artificial insulin with a slower release in the blood. They added a protein found in fish sperm, protamine. The body can break down protamine’s slowly, and one injection lasted for 36 hours.

For years, research continued to improve insulin, but the primary method of manufacture was extracting insulin from the pancreas of pigs and cattle then purified. The chemical structure of insulin in pigs and cows is a bit different than human insulin, but it does work well in the human body.

In 1970 researchers started to manufacture insulin that had a better resemblance to the body’s natural insulin. It wasn’t until the 1980s when researchers used the principles of genetic engineering actually to manufacture human insulin.

In 1982, Eli Lily and Company began to produce the first genetically-engineered pharmaceutical insulin and no more did medicine have to depend on animals. Human insulin is gown in a lab inside Escherichia coli bacteria. Yeast can also be used in the manufacture of human insulin.

Manufactured insulin still needed human proteins to produce the hormone, and it is obtained via an amino-acid sequencing machine that fashions the DNA. Manufacturers use insulin’s amino acids, the sequencing machine binds the amino acids together, and large tanks are used to grow the bacteria and synthesize insulin.

This process may sound simple, but it is very complex and involves chains, and oxidizing agents plus centrifugation to separate cell components. Finally, the DNA mixture is purified so only the insulin chains remain.

The quality and purity of manufactured insulin are tested through many diversemeans. High-performance liquid chromatography is expended to discover if there are impurities in the insulin. Other separation techniques like gel filtration, amino acid sequencing and x-ray crystallography are also used. Manufacture of human insulin must conform with the National Institute of Health practices for large-scale operations, and the FDA must certify all factory-made insulin.

Over the years, scientists have come up with a more advanced way to produce insulin to keep it very similar to its natural form. Manufacture of insulin has quickly become one of the most mass produced and needed medications in the world.

Results of the Study

Dr. Basu and his team calculated how the rates of diabetes would change over the next 12 years. They determined how high the numbers will rise and used those numbers to predict how much insulin will be needed for everyone with type 2 diabetes.

Data from the International Diabetes Federation and 14 other studies were researched to determine the number of people who would be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 221 countries. The team predicted that the number of adults with type 2 diabetes would rise from 406 million in 2018 to 551 million in 2030. The United States will be the third highest with 3 million people living with type 2 diabetes by 2030. Dr. Basu illustrated the reason for this rise as aging, urbanization, and changes in diet and physical activity.

One good note is not all people with type 2 diabetes need insulin. Out of predicted 511 million, 79 million need insulin to manage their diabetes. This is a 20 percent rise in the current demand for insulin. Future predictions state that only 38 million will have access to insulin based on current resources.

Insulin treatment is expensive, and the market only contains three manufacturers. Unless governments start to initiate making insulin affordable and available, then those who need insulin will be out of luck.


Rising rates of type 2 diabetes are driving up demand and prices for insulin. There are only three major manufacturers of insulin in the world, and from 2002 to 2013 the drug’s price tripled. The shortage will come from higher demand and lower ability to mass produce the drug.

The conclusion? It is crucial to ensure adequate supplies of insulin across the world, but there is an urgent need for letting people know that diabetes doesn’t have to be a part of their lives. Lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise, can alleviate the impending crisis. All it takes is education and determination to live a healthy lifestyle.