‘Medicines in Development’ just part of equation to treat diabetes

‘Medicines in Development’ just part of equation to treat diabetes

02.27.14 | By John Castellani

By 2020, nearly half of all Americans will have at least one chronic condition. As more and more people are afflicted by chronic disease, it is increasingly important to develop new ways to prevent, manage, and treat these life-altering conditions.

Diabetes, which affects nearly 26 million Americans, is one of the most pervasive of these chronic conditions. PhRMA’s recently-released 2014 Medicines in Development for Diabetes report looked at the efforts underway to bring about new treatments specifically for diabetes; biopharmaceutical companies are in the process of developing 180 medicines to treat diabetes and there are 200 active diabetes clinical trials in the United States.

Developing new medicines and treatments is just one aspect of fighting diabetes and other chronic conditions. To get a broader perspective on how we can collectively improve patients’ lives, we asked this week’s Conversations forum question:

What are our greatest challenges as we address managing chronic diseases like diabetes?

Managing diabetes, like many chronic conditions, requires daily monitoring and treatment. As Dr. Fran Cogen, Director of the Childhood and Adolescent Diabetes Program at Children’s National Health System, pointed out, this can be an incredible financial and mental burden on patients and their caregivers, leading to cases of burnout and feelings of despair. To combat this, Dr. Cogen emphasized the importance of developing streamlined ways to adapt and incorporate the latest treatment approaches into patients’ daily lives. By connecting patients with psychologists and social workers in addition to traditional treatment methods, we can help them adhere to their prescribed care regimens, save money and improve health outcomes.

Unlike the more well-known type 2 diabetes, type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, meaning treatments fight the body’s own immune system to keep glucose levels stable. While sharing some similarities, type 1 diabetes presents patients and caregivers with completely different challenges. But while type 1 diabetics can benefit from some advances in treating type 2 diabetes, its scarcity (as few as five percent of all diabetes cases are type 1) means that much less attention and research is put into finding a cure. However, there is hope for a breakthrough.

Dr. Richard Insel, the Chief Scientific Officer of Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, a type 1 diabetes advocacy group, cited “novel immune therapies that slow or halt the autoimmune process,” as well as research being done to regenerate the beta cells crucial to producing insulin, as promising research areas that have raised optimism within the type 1 diabetes community.

With the tremendous research being done, there is good reason for excitement. Dr. Bill Chin, PhRMA’s Executive Vice President of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs, highlighted the recent announcement of the Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP) as new reason patients, advocates, researchers, and the entire medical community should be encouraged about a future with better treatments and cures for some of the most frustrating chronic diseases. As Dr. Chin pointed out and AMP reflects: the biopharmaceutical industry, government, non-profits, and academia must work together to make this vision a reality.

I want to thank our contributors to this week’s Conversations discussion and we look forward to continuing our efforts – and discussion – on finding new ways to manage chronic diseases.

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