America’s biopharmaceutical research companies currently are developing 182 innovative new medicines to help the nearly 400 million people who have diabetes worldwide. These medicines in development—all either in clinical trials or under review by the FDA—include 30 for type 1 diabetes, 100 for type 2 and 52 for diabetes-related conditions, according to a new report by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).
In the U.S., nearly 26 million patients are affected by diabetes. The disease is one of the leading killers of Americans and the epidemic is quickly escalating. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prevalence of diabetes among U.S. adults grew by 45% over the past 20 years. Today, one in 10 American adults has diabetes and as many as one in three could face the disease by 2050 if the current trends continue.
“Dedicated researchers in the biopharmaceutical sector, working hand-in-hand with others in the medical innovation ecosystem, are striving to meet the global challenge of diabetes by developing new innovative treatment options,” said John J. Castellani, PhRMA president and CEO. “The nearly 200 medicines in development today offer great hope that together we can ease the tremendous burden of diabetes on patients, public health and economies around the world.”
The new report conveys the range of innovative approaches being pursed to tackle this challenging chronic disease. Examples 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.
According to the American Diabetes Association, most Americans with diabetes have type 2, in which the body fails to produce enough, or properly use insulin, which is a hormone needed to help our bodies’ process sugars and starches. Between 5% and 10% of Americans with diabetes have type 1, in which the body does not produce any insulin at all. 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. However, it is possible to control diabetes with the proper treatment plan, including diet, exercise and medications.
One of the biggest hurdles in discovering and developing new medicines for diabetes is the identification and validation of promising biological targets of the disease. A new public-private partnership involving the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 10 biopharmaceutical companies, PhRMA and several nonprofit disease foundations aims to transform the current model for developing new diagnostics and treatments for certain diseases. The Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP) will begin with three- to five-year pilot projects focused on three disease areas, including diabetes.
The economic consequences of diabetes are enormous. The total estimated cost of diagnosed diabetes in the U.S. 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 estimate was $174 billion, according to the American Diabetes Association.
Improved medication adherence provides an opportunity to reduce the financial burden related to diabetes and improve health outcomes. Recent research has found that patients who regularly adhered to their diabetes prescription regimen significantly reduced their total health care spending and lowered the number of emergency room visits and the number of days spent in the hospital.
“Many of the costs associated with diabetes care can be avoided,” said Castellani. “Improving adherence to medicines is one of the best opportunities to achieve better results for patients and greater value for our health care system.”