Diabetes epidemic grips the world

Experts are horrified with the rise of numbers of diabetics worldwide. A staggering 366 million people around the world have either Type 1 or 2 diabetes, says the International Diabetes Federation. The disease has taken a deadly toll, causing 4.6 million deaths each year, or one death every seven seconds. The number of sufferers was pegged at 285 million worldwide in 2009. Since then, China reported 92.4 million people with the condition, more than double the federation’s estimate. The diabetes epidemic is also heavy on healthcare spending, to the tune of $465 billion a year to fight the disease.

The federation is calling for more action and research to stop the rising tide. “The clock is ticking for the world's leaders,” Jean Claude Mbanya, president of the federation, said in a written statement. “We expect action from their meeting next week at the United Nations that will halt diabetes' relentlessly upwards trajectory.”

The federation represents associations from more than 160 countries and has announced the figures at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) conference in Lisbon, Portugal on Tuesday. It wants officials to outline concrete measures to stop the epidemic. Some experts suggest diabetes treatment should be integrated into local health clinics.

In August, a study in The Lancet estimated another 65 million Americans would be obese by 2030, which would tack on another 8 million new cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is linked to obesity, and can be managed with diet, physical activity, and sometimes, medication. Diabetes also contributes to complications, like cataracts, skin ulcers, kidney disease, and nerve damage.

“This emphasizes how we’ve been underestimating the prevalence of diabetes,” Andrew Boulton, president-elect of EASD and a professor of medicine at the University of Manchester, said at the meeting. “All the figures, even those we’ve mentioned today, are going to be an underestimate.”

Many older classes of diabetes drugs are now available as cheap generics, but global drugmakers - including Sanofi, Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk - aim to introduce new classes of drugs that could further extend treatment options. Global sales of diabetes medicines totalled $35 billion last year and could rise to as much as $48 billion by 2015, according to research firm IMS Health, driven by increased prevalence and treatment, especially in countries such as China, India, Mexico and Brazil.

The findings were released six days before world leaders meet at the United Nations in New York to discuss a global plan to fight diabetes, heart attack, cancer and other so-called non- communicable diseases. Surging rates of chronic illnesses threaten economic growth and undermine social and economic development, governments said in a draft political declaration.

The UN meeting on September 19th and 20th aims to encourage a “whole of government and whole of society” respond to non- communicable diseases, including a reduction in risk factors such as smoking and unhealthy diets.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


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