US biopharmaceutical research companies are currently developing 180 new medicines to help the nearly 400 million people worldwide who suffer from diabetes, says a new industry report.

The medicines in development are all either in clinical trials or under review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and they include 30 potential new treatments for type 1 diabetes, 100 for type 2 and 52 for diabetes-related conditions, according to the report, from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

Products in development include: - a medicine that improves glucose-dependent insulin secretion for type 2 diabetes; - a medicine designed to inhibit an enzyme linked to diabetic neuropathy; and - a treatment designed to stimulate and enhance the regeneration of insulin-producing cells for type 1 diabetes.

The US alone has nearly 26 million people affected by diabetes, and the disease’s prevalence among US adults has increased 45% in the last 20 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Today, one in 10 US adults has diabetes and as many as one in three could be facing the disease by 2050 if current trends continue, says PhRMA.

And the economic consequences of the disease are “enormous,” the industry group adds. The total estimated cost of diagnosed diabetes in the US in 2012 alone was $245 billion, including $176 billion in direct medical costs and $69 billion in reduced productivity. This is a 41% increase since 2007, when the estimated cost was $174 billion, according to the American Diabetes Association, which also reports that most diabetes patients in the US have the type 2 disease, while 5%-10% have type 1. 

Diabetes is a complex, chronic illness that requires consistent medical care and treatment to help control blood sugar levels and prevent acute or long-term complications of the disease, such as kidney failure, cardiovascular disease and amputations, says PhRMA.

However, it adds that it is possible to control diabetes today with the proper treatment plan, including diet, exercise and medications, and that improved medication adherence provides an opportunity to reduce the financial burden related to diabetes and improve health outcomes. 

“Many of the costs associated with diabetes care can be avoided,” comments PhRMA’s chief executive, John Castellani. “Improved adherence to medicines is one of the best opportunities to achieve better results for patients and greater value for our health care system,” he says.