Diabetes battle 'being lost' as cases hit record 382 million

LONDON Wed Nov 13, 2013 6:10pm EST

A patient takes a blood glucose test during an event aimed to help people with diabetes to cope with their illness at Saint Luka diagnostics medical center in Sofia, November 13, 2012. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

A patient takes a blood glucose test during an event aimed to help people with diabetes to cope with their illness at Saint Luka diagnostics medical center in Sofia, November 13, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Stoyan Nenov

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LONDON (Reuters) - The world is losing the battle against diabetes as the number of people estimated to be living with the disease soars to a new record of 382 million this year, medical experts said on Thursday.

The vast majority have type 2 diabetes - the kind linked to obesity and lack of exercise - and the epidemic is spreading as more people in the developing world adopt Western, urban lifestyles.

The latest estimate from the International Diabetes Federation is equivalent to a global prevalence rate of 8.4 percent of the adult population and compares to 371 million cases in 2012.

By 2035, the organization predicts the number of cases will have soared by 55 percent to 592 million.

"The battle to protect people from diabetes and its disabling, life-threatening complications is being lost," the federation said in the sixth edition of its Diabetes Atlas, noting that deaths from the disease were now running at 5.1 million a year or one every six seconds.

People with diabetes have inadequate blood sugar control, which can lead to a range of dangerous complications, including damage to the eyes, kidneys and heart. If left untreated, it can result in premature death.

"Year after year, the figures seem to be getting worse," said David Whiting, an epidemiologist and public health specialist at the federation. "All around the world we are seeing increasing numbers of people developing diabetes."

He said that a strategy involving all parts of society was needed to improve diets and promote healthier lifestyles.

The federation calculates diabetes already accounts for annual healthcare spending of $548 billion and this is likely to rise to $627 billion by 2035.

Worryingly, an estimated 175 million of diabetes cases are as yet undiagnosed, so a huge number of people are progressing towards complications unawares. Most of them live in low- and middle-income countries with far less access to medical care than in the United States and Europe.

The country with the most diabetics overall is China, where the case load is expected to rise to 142.7 million in 2035 from 98.4 million at present.

But the highest prevalence rates are to be found in the Western Pacific, where more than a third of adults in Tokelau, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands are already living with the disease.

Pharmaceutical companies have developed a range of medicines over the years to counter diabetes but many patients still struggle to control their condition adequately, leading to a continuing hunt for improved treatments.

Novo Nordisk, Sanofi and Eli Lilly are all major suppliers of insulin and other diabetes therapies.

(Editing by Alison Williams)

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Comments (3)
1962lady wrote:
As the wife, sister, and mother of diabetics I really wish that US doctors would routinely do an A1C on patients starting in their 30′s. Many young folks have diabetes and are not aware of it. It isn’t always the “heavier” people that have it. Also when diabetics are working to control their weight, exercising and eating carefully but still can’t lose weight, then doctors need to be willing to try known diet pills to “jump start” these folks’ metabolism. My husband has battled his weight problem for years and it is only after the doctor suggested that he try a diet pill that he has had success. My diabetic friend is now taking it and has already lost 25lbs and lowered her blood sugar considerably. (and both of them work out at least 5 days a week!) Also, insurance companies (Medicare included) fight giving “extra” testing strips unless you are on insulin–crazy, when the whole goal is to keep from having to go on insulin therapy if possible!!! The best way for diabetics to keep track of what food makes their blood sugar levels go up is by testing–and those strips do not cost that much to make, but may mean success for the patient!! I also wish that we would ban corn syrup/fructose from being dumped into practically everything that we buy in the grocery store!!

Nov 14, 2013 12:23am EST  --  Report as abuse
MargaD wrote:
I’m sure the top guys at Monsanto and the companies that make the drugs to treat diabetes are all getting record braking bonuses for a job well done. Make our food supply where it causes disease and them make the drugs to treat it. When diet and exercise don’t help, maybe what is in the diet needs a closer look. Monsanto’s round-up ready crops are in the food supply. We are being fed poison that causes cancer, leaky gut, and is a hormone disrupter.

Nov 14, 2013 12:54pm EST  --  Report as abuse
bdeeber8 wrote:
Insulin is outrageously expensive and because of that, health coverage is spotty at best. Why is that not mentioned in the article? Like asthma, the cost of treatment is a death sentence for many many thousands of people.

Nov 14, 2013 2:43pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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