Objective India's majority of patients—including those living with diabetes—seek healthcare in the private sector through out-of-pocket (OOP) payments. We studied access to insulin in the private-sector market of Delhi state, India.
Methods A modified World Health Organization/Health Action International (WHO/HAI) standard survey to assess insulin availability and prices, and qualitative interviews with insulin retailers (pharmacists) and wholesalers to understand insulin market dynamics.
Results In 40 pharmacy outlets analysed, mean availability of the human and analogue insulins on the 2013 Delhi essential medicine list was 44.4% and 13.1%, respectively. 82% of pharmacies had domestically manufactured human insulin phials, primarily was made in India under licence to overseas pharmaceutical companies. Analogue insulin was only in cartridge and pen forms that were 4.42 and 5.81 times, respectively, the price of human insulin phials. Domestically manufactured human phial and cartridge insulin (produced for foreign and Indian companies) was less expensive than their imported counterparts. The lowest paid unskilled government worker in Delhi would work about 1.5 and 8.6 days, respectively, to be able to pay OOP for a monthly supply of human phial and analogue cartridge insulin. Interviews suggest that the Delhi insulin market is dominated by a few multinational companies that import and/or license in-country production. Several factors influence insulin uptake by patients, including doctor's prescribing preference. Wholesalers have negative perceptions about domestic insulin manufacturing.
Conclusions The Delhi insulin market is an oligopoly with limited market competition. Increasing competition from Indian companies is going to require some additional policies, not presently in place. As more Indian companies produce biosimilars, brand substitution policies are needed to be able to benefit from market competition.
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