Critical Shipment of Insulin Reaches Puerto Rico Department of Health

Insulin was delivered to secure storage locations around San Juan, including the Puerto Rico Department of Health on Wednesday. From there, the medicines will be distributed to health clinics and hospitals across the island treating patients with diabetes. (Gordon Willcock/Direct Relief)

On Wednesday, Direct Relief delivered a critical shipment of nearly 16,000 doses of insulin to public health agencies in Puerto Rico. The medicine is now being distributed to health clinics and hospitals treating patients with diabetes across the island.

Puerto Rico has the highest rate of diabetes in the U.S. with 15.3 percent of the population being diagnosed with the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Most of the island is still without power, with many hospitals relying on generators to keep life-saving devices like ventilators and dialysis machines running. Refrigeration on the island has also been limited, which creates a challenge for storage of medicines like insulin, that require temperature control. Insulin must remain between 35 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit, and Direct Relief is coordinating with partners that can receive and store the medicine safely and securely.

FedEx transported the shipment from Atlanta to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and it was delivered to the Puerto Rico Public Health Department as well as the Administración de Servicios Médicos on Wednesday. Those groups are coordinating with specific health centers and hospitals to accept the insulin and begin administering to patients with diabetes.

With supply chains limited or cut off altogether, insulin availability has been disrupted for many patients in Puerto Rico.

When people evacuate their homes after a disaster, they’re often unable to bring a stockpile of critical medications to manage chronic conditions, like diabetes or high blood pressure.

Direct Relief’s Damon Taugher and Gordon Willcock stand with Department of Health Administrator Bianca Castro and Pharmacist Ana Alvarez after delivering insulin on Wednesday. (Gordon Willcock/Direct Relief)

Direct Relief has been shipping Emergency Health Kits to the island since Maria made landfall. Each kit contains enough medicines and supplies to treat 100 patients for 3-5 days. In addition to antibiotics and critical first aid care, the kits also contain medications for chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma. Other items needed to manage diabetes have also been shipped to Puerto Rico, including testing strips, needles and syringes.