Diabetes: The global epidemic of the 21st century

Over the last 15 years the number of people living with diabetes has doubled. An alarming trend - and this at a time when medicine has never been so far advanced. How did this happen and how can we at Roche Diabetes Care help make everyday life easier in the best possible way for patients with diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus - also known simply as diabetes - is a chronic metabolic disorder. The most common forms of diabetes are types 1 and 2. Most people with diabetes have the type 2 version, compared to around 10 percent who have type 1. In type 1 diabetes the body produces very little or no insulin, whereas in type 2 diabetes the body does not react properly to insulin. Gestational diabetes is another familiar type of diabetes. However, there are some other, rare, forms of the disease.

The hormone insulin is formed in the pancreas and, in healthy people, is responsible for ensuring that the glucose converted from food is able to pass from the blood into the body's cells. In people with diabetes this process is disrupted or fails to take place, causing the glucose to accumulate in the blood, eventually leading to high blood sugar levels.

Two Canadian researchers made medical history

After experimenting for many years, on 27 July 1921 the two doctors Frederick Grant Banting and Charles Best finally succeeded in extracting insulin from the pancreas of a dog. For millions of diabetics the discovery of this vital hormone was a lifesaver and marked a milestone in medical history. The two researchers were not the first to work on insulin, but they were the ones who achieved the breakthrough. That's why they are now considered to be the discoverers of insulin. As early as the following year, the newly discovered substance was successfully used in the treatment of diabetes.

A global burden for healthcare systems

Not so long ago, diabetes primarily affected people in industrial nations. The disease is now rapidly spreading across developing countries. The situation is paradoxical: although the drugs used to treat diabetes are getting better and better, more and more people are suffering from diabetes because they can't afford the drugs. In 2019, 463 million people worldwide were diagnosed with the disease. By the year 2045, 700 million people are projected to be diagnosed with diabetes. And some 50 percent of the population have still not been diagnosed.

A purely medical approach is not the solution

The associated costs alone would be astronomical. The EU currently allocates around 10 percent of its total annual health expenditure on controlling diabetes, i.e. over 100 billion euros. Many cases are avoidable; approximately 20 percent of new cases of diabetes in recent decades are attributable to inalterable risk factors such as increased life expectancy (source: Vitalabo.de), but bad habits such as being overweight and out of shape are the main culprits (approximately 80 percent of cases of type 2 diabetes).

Most causes can be brought under control by a change in lifestyle. However, many people prefer to take medication rather than modify their lifestyle. Small behavioural changes in diet and exercise can, within a few years, greatly reduce the risk of contracting diabetes.

About Roche Diabetes Care

Roche Diabetes Care has been pioneering innovative diabetes technologies and services for more than 40 years. More than 5,500 employees in over 100 markets worldwide work every day to support people with diabetes and those at risk to achieve more time in their target ranges and experience true relief from the daily therapy routines.

Being a global leader in integrated Personalised Diabetes Management (iPDM), Roche Diabetes Care collaborates with thought leaders around the globe, including people with diabetes, caregivers, healthcare providers and payers. Roche Diabetes Care aims to transform and advance care provision and foster sustainable care structures. Under the brands RocheDiabetes, Accu-Chek and mySugr, comprising glucose monitoring, insulin delivery systems and digital solutions, Roche Diabetes Care unites with its partners to create patient-centred value. By building and collaborating in an open ecosystem, connecting devices and digital solutions as well as contextualising relevant data points, Roche Diabetes Care enables deeper insights and a better understanding of the disease, leading to personalised and effective therapy adjustments. For better outcomes and true relief.

Since 2017, mySugr, one of the most popular diabetes management apps, is part of Roche Diabetes Care.

For more information, please visit www.rochediabetes.com, www.accu-chek.com and www.mysugr.com.

Written by Sandra Leoni, Diabetes Care site representative