The next cash cow: diabetes ?

imgresThe world is losing the battle against diabetes as the number of people estimated to be living with the disease soars to a new record of 382 million this year, medical experts said on Thursday.  The vast majority have type 2 diabetes – the kind linked to obesity and lack of exercise – and the epidemic is spreading as more people in the developing world adopt Western, urban lifestyles.  By 2035, the organization predicts the number of cases will have soared by 55 percent to 592 million.  While pharma targets cancer drugs as a way to replace products coming off patent there seems to be a huge opportunity in the diabetes market.

Calculations show that diabetes already accounts for annual healthcare spending of $548 billion and this is likely to rise to $627 billion by 2035.  Pharmaceutical companies have developed a range of medicines over the years to counter diabetes but many patients still struggle to control their condition adequately, leading to a continuing hunt for improved treatments.

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Why can’t we fight diabetes like we do cigarette smoking ?

Recent research has shown that patients see themselves at lower risk for most health problems when in reality they are higher risk.  There isn’t much emphasis on prevention in todays healthcare system it all seems to be focused on treatment.  I really believe that the FDA, in conjunction with insurers and pharma, need a broad, hard hitting  campaign to make people aware of the dangers of diabetes.  Too many feel it’s just an inconvenience requiring a daily shot when we know that diabetes is a killer and adds millions of dollars to health care costs.  If we could show the damage done by diabetes we just might be able to scare people straight into doing a better job monitoring their health.

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What can pharma do ?

Drugmakers led by Novo Nordisk A/S and Merck & Co. are increasing sales efforts for their top- selling diabetes drugs to grab as much of the market as possible ahead of a wave of new therapies.  In addition Novo Nordisk plans to invest up to 20 billion Danish crowns ($3.65 billion) on developing diabetes tablets intended to replace traditional insulin injections. But what about prevention?  Should pharma simply benefit from the increases or should they do more to raise awareness on prevention?

Of course there is no ROI in prevention but there could be the gratitude of people who learned they were at high risk for diabetes and made the decision to do something about it.  This is the branding/emotional connection that so many marketers are searching for.

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I’m a big believer in ensuring that everything we do has a positive ROI but you can’t always put dollars against tactics the change the publics perception of “big pharma” and God knows pharma needs to be seen in a different light.  The diabetes community is very active within social communities and maybe we could start by asking patients what could we have done to help you make changes in your life so that you could have avoided this horrible disease.  Better yet what advice would you give to the millions of people who are pre diabetic to help them overcome diabetes ?

ROI is important but not everything we do can be put into dollars and cents….

3 thoughts on “The next cash cow: diabetes ?

  1. Unfortunately this is easier said than done. The issue is larger than pharma…this is an epidemic and mostly caused by the growing prevalence of obesity in America. It isn’t necessarily up to pharma to figure this out. So, it’s not that Pharma is simply worried about an ROI. Isn’t every industry worried about an ROI? I agree, pharma, FDA, CDC, insurers and medical institutions should join forces rather than working in silos.

    Prevention of diabetes starts with healthy habits. Preventing obesity is the best place to start to avoid Type 2 diabetes. Pharma does play their part to help patients manage the disease but herein again, a lot is dependent on the patient to take charge of their health. Please share with me the magic formula for effective behavioral change that the masses adhere to for life. Yes, many are successful — weight watchers program, alcoholics anonymous and smoking cessation programs; however, do we know the true relapse rates?

    There are many non-profit organizations such as the ADA and even the CDC that provides information to help patients. If you look, there are plenty of communications out there about the danger of diabetes. Unfortunately, look at smoking. With all of the national PSAs and publicity on smoking and lung cancer over the years, I see more teenagers and young adults smoking than when I was that age. Again, what is the magic bullet? When a family member dies from diabetes or lung cancer; when it hits home. That is the emotional hook. The tools are out there….the onus is on the patient.

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