State, national leaders unite to fight diabetes in South Carolina

Diabetes under the Dome

03.26.14 | By Jon Tripp

South Carolina StatehouseThe magnificent architecture of the South Carolina State House served as the backdrop for Diabetes under the Dome – an event obviously focusing on one of the state’s worst health nightmares: diabetes.

Nearly 10% of the state’s population is afflicted by diabetes – a startling statistic only to be outdone by the fact that an additional 6.7% have pre-diabetes and a large number don’t even know they have the debilitating disease.

State Representative Doug Brannon stood with his daughter, Lexi, and shared their emotional journey from the lows of her diagnosis at the age of 6 to the highs of seeing her enter college and excel as a student. Lexi has taken on an advocacy role as counselor at Camp Adam Fisher, a camp for children with diabetes.State Representative Doug Brannon

While it is a fact that South Carolina has the seventh highest rate of the disease, diabetes isn’t just this state problem. It is a national emergency.

The potential health implications are staggering: from chronic kidney failure, to blindness, amputations, and increased risk of death from heart disease and stroke.

Economically, much like Alzheimer’s Disease, uncontrolled diabetes will contribute to bankrupting economies. According to the American Diabetes Association, the  cost of diagnosed diabetes in the United States was $245 billion in 2012, a 41% increase in 5 years.  The factors behind such a number are for the larger part direct medical costs (e.g., hospitalizations, emergency room visits, office visits and medications) and reduced productivity.

And then there is the economic and life-changing impact yet to be realized by the estimated seven million undiagnosed Americans. As Dr. Marion Burton, Medical Director of the SC Department of Health and Human Services pointed out, “the longer a person goes undiagnosed, the shorter their life will be.”

PhRMA VP Dr. Salvatore AlesciDr. Salvatore Alesci, PhRMA Vice President of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs, welcomed the state’s commitment to fight the disease. He highlighted the progress made in the management and treatment of diabetes due in large part to the discovery and development of innovative medicine, including eight new classes of therapies for diabetes type 2 approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in recent years. Dr. Alesci emphasized that such progress would have not been possible without the patients who volunteered to participate in clinical trials.  He pointed out that there are 200 active diabetes trials in the United States, 140 of which are recruiting patients, including 40 in South Carolina.

Dr. Alesci also noted that clinical trials provide an opportunity for patients to play a more active role in fighting their disease.  This is particularly important for certain populations, including African Americans and Hispanics, that have a higher prevalence of diabetes but are currently underrepresented in clinical trials.  Earlier this month, PhRMA joined the National Minority Quality Forum to unveil I’m In, a national campaign to raise awareness about the importance of clinical research and encourage greater participation by diverse patient populations to help researchers develop potential new life-saving medicines.

PhRMA just last month released Medicines in Development for Diabetes, a report highlighting the 180 medicines in the development pipeline to treat the disease and related conditions. I hope you’ll take a look at the report and share with someone.

March 20th is a day set aside by South Carolina officials. But sadly, that day has come and gone and those with the disease will continue the fight.  Five thousand American adults are diagnosed daily with diabetes. Seventy-nine million American adults have pre-diabetes.

The statistics are overwhelming. However the problem will not disappear by simply ignoring or avoiding the signs. To echo Representative Brannon, if you don’t know about diabetes, find out about it. If you see physical changes in you or your children, check it out.

But don’t avoid it.

Share your experiences for any or all of these questions: 1) What are you doing to fight the odds of getting diabetes? 2) If you have been diagnosed, what are you doing to combine adherence to your medications and physical fitness to fight complications? 3) What are you doing to help others learn about the disease?

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