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Insulin's Surging Price Turns Diabetes Staple Into Luxury Good

  • WHO criticizes expensive new insulins in first diabetes report
  • Doctors say older, cheap versions of hormone also save lives
Production of insulin pens at the factory of Eli Lilly in Fegersheim, France.
Photographer: Frederick Flroin/AFP via Getty Images

Patients with diabetes are constantly being offered the technological equivalent of the latest smartphone. Trouble is, many can only afford a basic handset.

The three drugmakers that dominate the world diabetes market -- Novo Nordisk A/S, Sanofi and Eli Lilly & Co. -- are introducing improved forms of insulin, the sugar-regulating hormone some patients require, with a price tag to match. But with diabetes tearing across the developing world, health officials say the focus must return to meeting basic needs.