China now has the largest type 2 diabetes patient population in the world, and Chinese sales of drugs to treat the condition will grow from a value of $1.4 billion in 2009 to $2.5 billion in 2014, according to a new report.

This fast growth will be due to an increasing drug-treated population, expanding medical insurance coverage and the launch and adoption of new drugs in the market, says the report, from Decision Resources.

Not only does China now have the greatest number of 2 diabetes patients globally, it is the third largest market for agents to treat the condition, behind the US and Japan, comments the report. “The type 2 diabetes market in China will continue to grow between 2009 and 2014 at an annual rate of 13%, which is faster than expected growth in the US or Japan,” says Jung Wu, an analyst at Decision Resources.

The report also finds that rising sales from recently-launched branded products from the west will offset the generic erosion from older agents. The launches of three dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-IV) inhibitors - Merck’s Januvia (sitagliptin), Novartis’s Galvus (vildagliptin) and Bristol-Myers Squibb/AstraZeneca’s Onglyza (saxagliptin) - and two glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) analogues - Novo Nordisk’s Victoza (liraglutide) and Eli Lilly/Amylin/Alkerme’s Bydureon (extended-release exenatide) - between 2009 and 2014 will result in more than $270 million combined sales from these two drug classes in the latter year, it forecasts.

“Increasing economic power in China and improvements in health insurance coverage has resulted in increased access to healthcare and the ability to afford expensive western branded drugs,” comments Jung Wu. “While metformin will continue to be the most widely-prescribed agent in China because of its low cost and long-term physician familiarity, newly launched DPP-IV inhibitors and GLP-1 agonists will be used more frequently in the second or third line. The use of more western brands will contribute to the expansion of the type 2 diabetes market in China.”

- Last month, it was reported that 13% of China’s total medical expenditures, or around $25 billion, are directly caused by diabetes. These numbers will increase rapidly over the next 10-20 years when approximately 50 million Chinese with undiagnosed diabetes enter medical care, and when they and the 50 million people whose condition has been diagnosed begin developing preventable diabetes complications such as stroke, blindness and kidney disease, says the report, which is published by the Chinese Diabetes Society of the Chinese Medical Association and the International Diabetes Federation.

This study follows on from the findings earlier this year, published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) that, at 92.4 million, China has twice as many adults with diabetes than previously estimated, and that nearly 150 million more are showing early symptoms.