Diabetes is a serious and growing problem in Europe. Diabetes does not just affect people living with the condition; it costs the European economy €188 billion annually and puts pressure on health systems [1]. Bold and urgent actions are needed as the disease is responsible for a public health crisis, one that is under recognised and not given the priority it needs.

Yet there are reasons to be optimistic. Treating diabetes early delivers long-lasting benefits, and the EU has identified diabetes as one of five priority areas for its Healthier Together – EU Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) Initiative. This programme will support measures to reduce the burden of diabetes and other NCDs and improve citizens’ health and wellbeing in 2022-2027.

Lilly welcomes the EU’s focus on diabetes. We need to take action now to strengthen healthcare policy to deal with this growing crisis.

Around 61 million people in Europe live with diabetes, of which 90% are diagnosed with type 2 [2]. The clinical and economic burden of this variant largely relates to long-term complications, such as kidney disease, blindness, heart attacks, strokes and amputations. A German study showed that 75% of the direct costs of type 2 diabetes care were related to treatment of diabetes-related complications, with only 6% of the direct costs related to medication [3]. What can be done to reduce the burden on both patients and our healthcare systems?

Lilly has a proud history in the treatment of diabetes, and we were the first company to commercialise insulin. We play a leading role in a range of industry and multi-stakeholder initiatives aimed at tackling the disease, including the European Diabetes Forum (EUDF), a group that brings together industry, patient groups, and healthcare professionals to address the challenges of diabetes.

In June, EUDF brought together experts and policymakers in Brussels to announce three key policy recommendations:

  1. Integration of Care which promotes a long-term view of treatment across the different aspects of treatment in relation to each other;

  2. the development of new Digital Technologies, which can be particularly helpful for long-term conditions like diabetes that are largely self-managed; and

  3. Diabetes Registries which collect, track and analyse patient data.

On behalf of EFPIA, I chaired the Diabetes Registries workstream. When patient data registries are integrated into healthcare systems, they contribute to providing better care and treatment for patients. Yet only a handful of countries in Europe have a national diabetes registry. We need to demonstrate tangible improvements in outcomes, like the results from Hong Kong’s diabetes registry which contributed to a significant drop in diabetes-related complications such as Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) and stroke. Processes need to be put in place so that data is reviewed and changes in clinical practice are implemented based on key findings.

It is essential that we continue to raise awareness of the healthcare crisis of diabetes and keep up the pressure on policymakers, demonstrating that bold action is urgently needed to slow and reverse the growing burden of diabetes. The time for action is now if we are serious about improving the health and wellbeing of Europe’s citizens.

[1] IDF Diabetes Atlas, Key global findings 2021 – Europe. Available at: https://diabetesatlas.org/. Last accessed July 2022. Note: cost converted from USD to EUR on 13.07.2022.

[2] IDF Diabetes Atlas, 10th Edition 2021. Available at: https://diabetesatlas.org/idfawp/resource-files/2021/07/IDF_Atlas_10th_Edition_2021.pdf Last accessed July 2022.

[3] Epidemiology of complications and total treatment costs from diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes in Germany. Martin S, et al. Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes. 2007; 115:495-501