BY STANISLAV GLEZER, M.D., MBA
WITH MORE THAN 100 million Americans affected by pre-diabetes, diabetes continues to be a growing health problem.
According to the Center for Disease Control’s Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance System, more than 10 percent of people in New Jersey are affected by this disease, with this proportion more than doubling in the past 20 years and recently surpassing the average diabetes prevalence in the United States. This situation warrants immediate action, as diabetes is associated with devastating health consequences, such as kidney failure, cardiovascular disease, blindness, amputations and infections.
Many biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device companies are working on developing new clinical tools to help patients control their blood glucose levels, reducing the risk of complications and disease progression. New Jersey is home to the Global and/or U.S. headquarters for many of these organizations, contributing significant efforts to innovations in diabetes care.
In the past few years, we have seen multiple new pharmaceutical products and drug classes emerge. Some of them have demonstrated in clinical trials significant reduction in kidney damage, cardiovascular events risk, survival benefits and so on. New medical devices improve the ability of patients to assess and monitor their levels of blood glucose and deliver injectable drugs, such as insulin or GLP1 antagonists more efficiently and conveniently. In addition, advances in chemistry and formulations allowed the start of transition of certain injectable products to oral forms.
Unfortunately, despite having more and better management tools, the level of average glycemic control in diabetes is getting worse and the economic burden is continuously increasing. The disconnect between the benefits, demonstrated in clinical research, and the realities of daily living and care for people with diabetes is striking.
Diabetes is a progressive, life-long condition. In that context we need to view it not just as a medical issue, but as a part of regular life for the people affected by it. This brings up the challenges of relative priority of diabetes management, financial burden on the patient and the family, integration with the lifestyle, education and understanding of what it takes to keep diabetes under control and many other factors.
Clearly, healthcare systems cannot manage every one of these aspects and, even with the best efforts of healthcare professionals, people living with diabetes need more support and empowerment. Strong progress has been made in providing patients with better information and insights into their blood glucose levels and linking them to physical activity and nutritional data.
More importantly, data from these tools is becoming increasingly integrated with the rest of medical information, allowing for enhanced patient self-management and clinical decision making.
But even with high level of patient engagement and good use of these tools, people living with diabetes are often overwhelmed by the volume of information, navigation through the healthcare system, complexity of insurance coverage and reimbursement and other challenging aspects of diabetes care. It is very reassuring to see that community-based organizations, such as the Diabetes Foundation, offer patient support, advocacy and system navigation to fill the system gaps and provide patients and their families with help, when they really need it.
It is clear that there is no single solution to the increasing burden of diabetes, and it takes the healthy ecosystem between healthcare providers, industry and community organizations working together to meaningfully benefit people affected by this disease.