FDA approves new drug in attempt to corral growing diabetes rates

Diabetes has several severe health consequences, including gangrene limbs.Diabetes rates have been growing over the past three decades, as more people in the United States and around the world lead increasingly sedentary lifestyles and consume fattier foods.

Health professionals have been working diligently to reduce the instances of diabetes for quite awhile, but most of their efforts have had minimal impact. Now, a new drug that was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration may be able to help make a dent in those rates, and it has people who treat and study diabetes very excited.

Diabetes statistics around the world

Diabetes numbers in the U.S. are alarming. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2011 fact sheet on diabetes, which is the latest report from that agency, nearly 26 million Americans are affected by the disease.1 That means more than 8 percent of the country’s population has diabetes-related health issues, and that number has been rising over the past several years.

The number of confirmed cases of diabetes in the U.S. is around 18 million, which is the third highest total in the world.2 And with approximately 1.6 million cases diagnosed on average every year, there appears to be no end in sight to the diabetes epidemic. Based on those numbers, the CDC projects that if those trends continue, one in three Americans will have diabetes by 2050.

The disease is not only a health care nightmare, it also leads to billions of dollars a year in added costs. According to the UnitedHealth Group, diabetes or prediabetes could cost the health system in the U.S. $3.35 trillion over the next decade.

On a global scale, diabetes affects more than 300 million people, with China (92 million) and India (80 million) having the highest number of incidences, according to the International Diabetes Foundation. And 11.6 percent of the world’s health care expenditures in 2010, or approximately $376 billion, were dedicated to diabetes treatment.

Diabetes rates by income, age and race

Diabetes tends to affect lower- and middle-income areas more heavily than it does wealthier ones. But it’s also more prevalent among older people, Hispanics and blacks. Much of that is due to the fact that poorer neighborhoods don’t have easy access to more nutritious food options, as many of them are in so-called food deserts, where grocery stores are too few or are non-existent.

By 2010, nearly 11 million Americans age 65 or older had been diagnosed with diabetes, which is approximately 27 percent of the total population in that age group. On the other end of the spectrum, about 215,000 people under the age of 20 had been diagnosed with the disease.

Nearly 12 percent of Hispanic-Americans and 12.6 percent of African-Americans are diabetic, as compared to about 7 percent of non-Hispanic whites. That racial gap in diabetes rates, and the health problems and care costs that accompany the disease, serve to exacerbate the racial divide in America, making the effects of diabetes much farther ranging than just having an impact on the health care system.

Health problems resulting from diabetes

One of the scariest things about diabetes is the way it can affect people’s health beyond the immediate pitfalls of the disease itself. In the U.S. diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death, a major cause of heart disease and stroke, and it’s the leading cause of kidney failures, non-traumatic limb amputations and new cases of blindness among adults.

With more than one-third of the U.S. population is estimated to be prediabetic in 2010, the fact that the disease leads to so many other health issues is even more alarming.

New drug to treat diabetes

More than 90 percent of the diabetes cases in the U.S. fall under the Type 2 category, and a new drug, Farxiga, that was recently approved by the FDA, is designed to specifically treat that form of the disease.3 The drug, along with diet and exercise, help improve glycemic control. It does so by blocking the reabsorption of glucose by the kidney.

“Controlling blood sugar levels is very important in the overall treatment and care of diabetes, and Farxiga provides an additional treatment option for millions of Americans with Type 2 diabetes,” Curtis Rosebraugh, director of the Office of Drug Evaluation II in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a statement.

This new drug could be a powerful new tool for physicians, certified medical assistants, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians as they attempt to control the growth of diabetes rates in the U.S. and around the world. It will take a concerted effort throughout the health industry to stem the growth of diabetes. That means every health professional needs to work with at-risk patients to find the most effective treatments and preventative steps for diabetes.

1 “National Diabetes Fact Sheet, 2011,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, April 2010. http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/pdf/ndfs_2011.pdf
2 “Diabetes Facts and Statistics,” Albert Einstein College of Medicine. http://www.einstein.yu.edu/centers/diabetes-research/facts-statistics/
3 “FDA Approves Farxiga to Treat Type 2 Diabetes,” FDA Press Release, Jan. 8, 2014. http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm380829.htm