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Policy recommendations for improved treatment of diabetes

Submitted by on 29 Sep 2016 – 11:45

Diabetes is a growing epidemic, affecting nearly 60 million people across Europe. This major public health issue continues to impose a heavy financial burden on health services, making early and appropriate intervention vitally important.  In April this year, the International Centre for Parliamentary Studies (ICPS) brought together the key stakeholders in the field to address this burning health priority. Arvind Venkataramana, Research Director at ICPS analyses some of the policy recommendations initiated at the roundtable

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 60 million people in the EU are affected by diabetes, which directly translates to 10.3% of all men and 9.6% of all women over the age of 25 in the region. Research has shown that the prevalence of the disease is increasing among all ages due to the general population becoming overweight and obese due to poor diets and lack of physical activity. The WHO has also warned that high blood glucose is killing about 3.4 million people annually with about 80% of these deaths occurring in low and middle income countries and half of them are affecting people under the age of 70.

The WHO projects that diabetes deaths will double between 2005 and 2030. With a view to proposing policy recommendations to the EU on effectively managing the disease, John Bowis OBE and the International Centre for Parliamentary Studies brought together Members of the European Parliament, senior representatives from the European Commission, diabetologists, endocrinoligists, patient groups, as well as leading pharmaceutical and technology providers to a senior level roundtable in Brussels on the 5th of April, 2016.

EU Policy – Current state of affairs and scope for change

The meeting began on a sombre note with tributes, condolences and messages of solidarity from participants to the people of Brussels, who were subject to the terror attacks on the city on the 22nd of March. This was followed by a presentation by IDF Europe’s Chair, Prof Sehnaz Karadeniz who highlighted the fact that over 32 million people in the EU, which is equivalent to the population of the 6th largest country in the continent. On a positive note, EU spending on tackling the disease had increased year on year and the IDF’s 70 associations across 40 countries had established a clear roadmap to bring about better outcomes for patients in the future.

At the roundtable, one of the most common criticisms of current EU policy was that it was too geographically focussed and that it ignored other, more important demographics of patients. Additionally, there is no EU policy on the type and volume of data that needs to be consistently collected in member states. As current policy tends to be more focussed on Type 2 Diabetes, more needs to be done on both types, independent of each other.

Impact of diabetes on patient wellbeing

The discussion then moved to the implications of diabetes on mental health – more support needs to be provided for patients who suffer from depression as a result of diabetes. Future policy should also take into consideration psychiatric treatment, self-help as well as patient education and empowerment to reduce instances of diabetic patients suffering from depression and other mental health issues.

Assessing the ‘true’ cost of diabetes

The consensus was that assessing the cost of diabetes should go beyond treatment – the EU should take into account the cost to treat diseases resulting from diabetes, the cost to set up preventative measures, education as well as costs incurred outside the healthcare sphere, including local governments. This will provide us better visibility on the potential far reaching consequences of the disease and could facilitate informed policy making.

Technologies and treatment

Although there were important technological breakthroughs in the treatment of Type 1 Diabetes and improved treatments for Type 2, more should be done by the European Parliament (EP) and the European Commission (EC) to ensure these developments are brought to patients quickly. The EU needs to be more proactive in bringing treatments to patients faster than before. During the roundtable, Christel Schaldemose MEP, Co–chair of the EU Diabetes Working Group, highlighted the importance of bringing developments to EU policy makers more regularly as most policies are currently at the risk of being developed using historical data. More needs to be done to ensure there is a constant stream of information flowing through the EP and EC to facilitate future policies to reflect on the most recent developments and breakthroughs