Diabetes must be higher on the political agenda
60 million people in Europe—equivalent to the population of Italy—have diabetes. This presents a significant challenge for European health systems, which spend €150 billion on diabetes. 1 And up to 75% of diabetes expenditure is related to preventable complications. 2 Moreover, COVID-19 has further highlighted the need for better diabetes care and control as people with diabetes are suffering a far higher mortality rate than the general population. This should be a call to action for all policymakers. Yet, diabetes does not seem to be a core issue on the European health policy agenda. It is high time for this to change.
What is being done so far?
The good news is that political landscape is starting to evolve in a positive direction. European diabetes advocates were given a boost in October with the creation of MEPs Mobilising for Diabetes (MMD), a new interest group in the European Parliament co-chaired by MEPs Sirpa Pietikäinen and Christel Schaldemose.
The initiative is a sign that political stakeholders are starting to recognise the need for a concerted focus on diabetes. This group will elevate diabetes on the political agenda and spur policy action including a focus on new digital tools to improve care and lower the incidence of the disease.
Equally important, it will be an important voice in the halls of Brussels, dispelling persistent myths, promoting understanding of the disease, and working to eliminate stigma and discrimination.
An additional encouraging development is a new forum for EU stakeholders that aims to translate research into policy actions with the goal of improving outcomes for people with diabetes. The European Diabetes Forum (EUDF)—created by key stakeholders from across the diabetes landscape including EASD, IDF Europe, FEND, SFD and JDRF—is something Lilly has supported since its earliest stages.
EUDF will deliver on three strategic pillars: digital health, data registries and integration of care. Lilly is eager to share its expertise on these important workstreams and will chair the "Data & Registry" strategy work.
Integration of care is also an issue the Economist has picked up on. Working together with the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), their Economist Intelligence Unit created an initiative on just this.
Their recently published report outlines a pathway to integrated diabetes care and has Identified siloed financing and non-integrated IT systems as critical stumbling blocks. Addressing these issues is necessary if we are going to enable coordinated care pathways for people with diabetes. Here, too, European policymakers can learn and take action.
So what more is needed?
Lilly, as a member of the EFPIA Diabetes Platform (itself a contributor to the EUDF) is clear about where we see potential and what needs to change.
First of all, there is embracing new tech. Diabetes is 99% self-management and innovation can dramatically improve this task. Emerging technologies such as connected pens and health care apps can also improve management of diabetes not only for people with diabetes but also within healthcare systems. They will help enable platforms such as interoperable data registries that support integrated care.
Secondly, we need to invest to prevent complications from diabetes. There are two key recommendations here: One is that Europe should develop a policy framework for diabetes that is more focused on patient outcomes. The other is to ensure that access to and funding for innovative treatments and digital health solutions is sustainable and understandable.
2021 promises to be a landmark year for diabetes care, for a number of reasons. 100 years ago researchers from the University of Toronto discovered insulin and partnered with Lilly as the first pharmaceutical company to mass produce life-saving insulin. There has been incredible innovation in insulin and other diabetes medications over the past century. However, a new recognition is emerging in Europe of the daunting scale of the diabetes challenge that still lies ahead.
New initiatives to meet that challenge are finding their feet. And a changing landscape gives us reason to be optimistic that policymakers, healthcare providers, patients and industry can work together to find the solutions we need. 60 million people are counting on us to deliver.
IDF Europe’s Response to the European Commission Directorate General for Research and Innovation’s Conquering Cancer: Mission Possible report. Available from: https://idf.org/component/attachments/?task=download&id=2206:IDF-Europes-Response-to-the-Cancer-Mission-Interim-report-01072020
European Diabetes Forum. A Call to Action, To All Stakeholders in the European Diabetes Landscape. Available from: https://www.eudf.org/static/docs/call-to-action.pdf.
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