The results of a new diabetes survey commissioned by Merck & Co underline the need for continued development of regional strategies to prevent and manage the disease, says the US company currently shaking up the market for diabetes therapies with its first-in-class DPP-IV inhibitor, Januvia (sitagliptin).

Merck also announced a partnership with the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) under which a series of “Unite for Diabetes” meetings will be held in each of the seven IDF regions. The aim is to help further the goals of the United Nationals (UN) Resolution on diabetes, including access to diabetes management strategies and appropriate treatment.

The UN Resolution passed in December 2006 “was a major achievement, but it was just the first step in the struggle to reverse the global diabetes epidemic,” commented IDF President-Elect Professor Jean-Claude Mbanya. “The next is to encourage governments worldwide to develop and implement national policies for the prevention, care and treatment of diabetes. A fully implemented national diabetes plan should be the right of all people living with diabetes worldwide and not the privilege of a few. This can only be achieved by adopting a regional focus.”

In many countries, Professor Mbanya noted, at least half the people with type 2 diabetes are diagnosed very late, when the complications associated with the disease are already taking their toll. The “Diabetes: The Real Picture” survey commissioned and funded by Merck & Co indicated that, while in some key areas the perception and management of type 2 diabetes are similar worldwide, there are also some regional differences in understanding that “could become potential barriers to the effective implementation of the United Nations World Diabetes Day Resolution,” the company warned.

Lack of monitoring
For example, the survey showed that many diabetics are not monitoring their blood glucose levels regularly, with potentially alarming consequences. Among the physicians that took part in the survey, 58% recommended that people with diabetes should check their blood glucose levels daily. Yet only 33% of the diabetics surveyed said they checked their blood glucose levels at least once or more than once a day.

Moreover, people with diabetes surveyed in Brazil and Asia reported more infrequent checking of blood glucose levels than in Canada and Europe. Just 19% of Brazilians and 7% of Asians checked their blood glucose daily, compared with 70% of Canadians, 53% of diabetics in the UK, 38% in Spain and 54% in Germany.

These disparities can have a significant impact on the effectiveness of diabetes management, Merck noted. Among people who regularly self-monitor their blood glucose, 70% achieve their HbA1c blood glucose target compared with only 18% of patients who self-monitor irregularly and 22% of patients who do not self-monitor.

The “Diabetes: The Real Picture” survey was conducted for Merck & Co by FieldWork International Healthcare, which interviewed a total of 1,200 patients with type 2 diabetes and 360 physicians (mainly specialists) in Brazil, Canada, Germany, the Philippines, Singapore, Spain, Thailand and the UK.