US biopharmaceutical research companies are currently developing a total of 221 new medicines for the treatment of diabetes and related conditions, according to new industry data.
All these new treatments are either in clinical trials now or awaiting approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), says a new report from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).
They include 32 new treatments for type 1 diabetes, 130 for type 2, 14 for unspecified diabetes and 64 for diabetes-related conditions, says PhRMA, which describes this pipeline as "an exciting new chapter in the ongoing quest to better treat this debilitating disease."
Since 1990, six new classes of diabetes type 2 medicines have been approved by the FDA. The products which are currently in development include: - a once-daily medicine that selectively inhibits the protein associated with glucose metabolism; - a medicine designed to inhibit an enzyme linked to diabetic neuropathy; and - a medicine used to treat type 2 diabetes that may allow for once-weekly dosing.
25.8 million people in the US - nearly 8.3% of the population - have diabetes, says PhRMA. An estimated 18.8 million of these people have been diagnosed, but seven million are not aware that they have the disease, and another 79 million have pre-diabetes.
And as many as one in three US adults could face the disease by 2050 if current trends continue, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The prevalence is expected to rise sharply for a variety of reasons, including an ageing population more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, increases in minority groups at high risk for the disease, and longer lifespans among diabetes patients.
If untreated, the condition can lead to severe health problems and complications, such as heart disease, stroke, vision loss and amputation, notes PhRMA, which also points out that average medical expenditures among people with diagnosed diabetes are 2.3 times higher than such spending for people who do not have the disease.
The industry group also discusses the significant economic consequences of diabetes, which in 2007 totalled $174 billion in the US. $116 billion of this was accounted for by direct medical costs, while indirect costs (including disability, work loss and premature mortality) came to $58 billion. If the additional costs of undiagnosed diabetes ($18 billion), pre-diabetes ($25 billion) and gestational diabetes ($623 million) are factored in, the total annual cost of diabetes in the US amounts to $218 billion, it says.
However, improved adherence to diabetes medications can lead to better health outcomes and reduced costs, PhRMA notes. Recent research suggests that patients with diabetes who do not consistently take their medicines as prescription are 2.5 times more likely to be hospitalised than those who follow their prescribed treatment regimens more than 80% of the time.
Also, a recent study in the journal Health Affairs projected that improved adherence to diabetes medications could result in more than 1 million fewer emergency room visits and close to 620,000 less hospitalisations annually, giving total potential savings of some $8.3 billion a year.