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5 ways to tackle Europe’s diabetes crisis

Europe has a serious problem on its hands – and it’s getting worse. Rising rates of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) threaten the wellbeing of our citizens, the sustainability of our healthcare systems, and the stability of our economies.   
 
Diabetes, which accounts for 8.5% of all-cause mortality in Europe, is a major contributor to this challenge[1]. The number of people with diabetes has risen steadily, leading to significant ill-health and causing premature deaths. Diabetes was responsible for 6.7 million deaths in 2021 - 1 every 5 seconds. 
 
Diabetes also increases the risk of blindness, amputation, and kidney failure. It contributes to reduced quality of life and loss of working capacity, severely impacting European societies. The prevalence of diabetes is increasing rapidly. It is estimated that by 2030, 10.2% of the global population will be affected. Clearly, action is needed.  
 
Shared solutions  
The EFPIA Diabetes Platforms welcomes the EU NCD Initiative – Healthier Together. We are committed to playing an active and constructive role in developing and accelerating an ambitious collective effort to tackle one of the biggest public health challenges of our time.  
 
That is why we support the implementation of the WHO global diabetes targets and have proposed specific adaptations for Europe. The proposed European targets aim to improve diagnosis, access to diabetes education and treatment, and control of glycaemia and blood pressure, among other indicators.  
 
In addition, the EFPIA Diabetes Platform has set out five key areas where action is needed if Europe is to tackle diabetes: 
 
  • Collect and use diabetes data: The lack of data on diabetes care and outcomes is a serious obstacle to progress. To reduce the risk of diabetes complications and mortality, healthcare systems must use health data and registries to define, measure and achieve the best possible outcomes for people with diabetes.  
  • Tackle health inequalities: Diabetes disproportionately affects the least well-off in society, who are not only more likely to get diagnosed with the condition, but also at greater risk of suffering severe complications. It is vital to address disparities in the diagnosis of diabetes, and access to innovative treatments across society.  
  • Support primary care: Primary care is a crucial component of an integrated health system. 90% of diabetes care in Europe occurs in primary care, which is also a key initial contact point for early diagnosis. We need to rethink our health systems to focus on primary care, delivering earlier diagnosis and effective treatment. Risk assessment for diabetes and complications (such as cardiovascular disease) are needed to allow for early intervention and better outcomes for patients. 
  • Focus on integrated care: Inadequate integration between various parts of the healthcare system, including primary care and secondary care leads to inefficiencies and missed health outcomes. By bringing these elements together, people with diabetes stand to benefit from a more holistic approach to care pathways, offering seamless disease management and follow-up.  
  • Match incentives with long-term outcomes: Short-term budgetary cycles are ill-suited to long-term conditions such as diabetes. It is time to rethink budgets to ensure that incentives are designed to maximise outcomes. By breaking down siloes and taking a person-focused approach, health systems can improve the lives of people with diabetes, build system resilience and deliver efficiencies.  
 
While there is still much work to do if European healthcare systems are to deliver the reforms needed to deal with the diabetes challenge, the EFPIA Diabetes Platform remains committed to offering detailed and achievable solutions. In the months ahead, we will elaborate on these proposals and continue our engagement with policymakers and stakeholders. The diabetes crisis is too big for any of us to solve alone.  

[1] IDF Diabetes Atlas, 9th Edition 2019, https://www.diabetesatlas.org/upload/resources/material/20200302_133351_IDFATLAS9e-final-web.pdf

Maurizio Guidi

Maurizio Guidi is responsible for Lilly Diabetes Corporate Affairs outside US. Since joining Lilly in 1988, Maurizio...
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Elvera Laanen Larsen

Elvera Laanen Larsen is co-chair of the EFPIA Diabetes Platform and Global Head of Diabetes Policy and Patient...
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