Soaring diabetes cases a cause for concern - GulfToday

Soaring diabetes cases a cause for concern

Diabetes

Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

The soaring prevalence of diabetes in the world, with nearly three times more diabetics today than 35 years ago, is a matter of huge concern and it is disappointing that the marking of the World Diabetes Day on Thursday did not help create significant alertness about the challenge posed by the sweet killer.

The consolation though is the positive indication that overly expensive insulin could be a thing of the past – and life-changing news – for millions of diabetics under a plan launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday to diversify production globally.

The UN agency insists that it already had informal expressions of interest from pharmaceutical companies looking to produce insulin and have WHO assess whether it is safe for people to use. The simple fact is that the prevalence of diabetes is growing, the amount of insulin available to treat diabetes is too low, the prices are too high, so we need to do something, as Emer Cooke, Director of Regulation of Medicines and other Health Technologies at WHO, points out.

Today, three manufacturers control most of the global market for insulin, which was discovered as a treatment for diabetes in 1921.

The medicine works by lowering blood glucose levels, a task that is usually carried out by natural insulin, which is produced by the pancreas whenever we eat.

The quadrupling in the number of people with diabetes since 1980 – to around 420 million today, mostly in low and middle-income countries - is widely attributed to poor diet and a lack of exercise.

Those with type one diabetes – around 20 million people - need insulin injections to survive, while only around half of the 65 million type-two sufferers who need insulin are able to get it, as per WHO.

According to the International Diabetes Federation, the current number of sufferers would jump to 578 million by 2030 and to 700 million by 2045, posing huge challenges for treatment and management of a disease which is already a top-10 killer worldwide.

The IDF estimates the diabetes health cost in 2019 at $760 billion.

In some countries, prices are so prohibitive that some people are forced to ration their insulin.

This leaves them susceptible to heart attacks, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and lower limb amputations.

And while diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death globally in 2016, the finding is only worrying because the disease kills people prematurely, as per Dr Gojka Roglic, WHO medical officer and diabetes expert.

Diabetes is a chronic, metabolic disease characterised by elevated levels of blood glucose (or blood sugar), which leads over time to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves.

The most common is type 2 diabetes, usually in adults, which occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin or doesn’t make enough insulin.

Type 1 diabetes, once known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin by itself.

Being among the leading causes of death, diabetes is a major public health challenge. What is called for united global action that not only helps raise awareness but also executes corrective measures.

Monitoring blood pressure, improving diet and engaging in exercise are among the cost-effective ways to address diabetes.

Governments need to step up their response against diabetes, including by protecting people against risk factors such as unhealthy diet and also air pollution.