Research reveals the burden of treatment is high for diabetes patients, who are putting their lives at risk by missing doses

UAE, 19 April 2016: Findings from a new survey involving 200 UAE physicians were announced today, revealing many UAE residents struggle with the burden of their diabetes treatment and miss doses, potentially leading to serious health consequences and highlighting a need for new strategies to support patients.

The survey conducted for AstraZeneca[1] involved extensive interviews with UAE based physicians and aimed to build a clearer picture on diabetes management and control in the region.

The results showed considerable segmentation, with patients being on a variety of treatments and half still having HbA1c levels in the 6–8% range.

Doctors measure the level of HbA1c in patients’ blood to test how well a person’s diabetes is controlled, as it is a marker of how much sugar they have in circulation.

An HbA1c test result of 5.6% or less is normal; 5.7% to 6.4 is a prediabetes state, while HBA1c of 6.5% or above indicates diabetes and a higher risk of health issues[2]. The goal of treatment for someone with diabetes is to lower their HbA1c to as low as possible.

Dr Amel Bushra El Tayeb, Consultant Endocrinologist at The Diabetes & Endocrine Centre in Dubai, explained that many factors influence how well a person’s diabetes is controlled, including their lifestyle, whether they take their medicine as prescribed, and the effectiveness of the treatment taken.

“As doctors, our goal is to work with our patients to get their HbA1c down to a safe level to reduce the risk of associated illness like cardiovascular disease,” Dr Amel said.

“Unfortunately sometimes people don’t take their medication as prescribed or stop taking it altogether1 or they’re resistant to making healthy lifestyle changes and this can contribute to undesirable HbA1c levels1,” he said. The new survey also indicated that many patients are not taking their treatment at all.

“Additionally, sometimes even when the medicine is taken properly it doesn’t lower blood sugar as much as we’d like,” Dr Amel said. “This new market research offers valuable insight into what treatments are working for which patient groups and highlights where we need to look for new strategies,” he added. “It should help us tailor treatment and help our patients get their diabetes under control.”

Dr Tarek Fiad, Consultant Endocrinologist at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, Abu Dhabi, explained that diabetes is a progressive disease, which requires more therapies and different approaches over time. “Treatments that worked well during the early course of diabetes becomes less effective over the years, which underscores the importance of long-term follow-ups with timely additions of more therapies when the need arises.”

Some of the glucose-lowering medicines are often associated with side effects like weight gain, Dr Fiad said. “We know that a substantial number of people with diabetes struggle with the long list of medications being taken and start missing doses.  Beside the load of therapies, patients may skip taking their medications because of undesirable side effects including weight gain.”

Dr Fiad added that it is not unusual that a large number of medications are required to control diabetes and the complexity of some therapies can drive some patients to omit their medications.

“I understand that some patients become dissatisfied with their medications and therefore, elect to stop their therapies, however, it is crucially important to maintain diabetes under control in order to prevent complications and enjoy a long healthy life,” he said. “We need newer strategies and more innovative approaches – including a wider range of safer and more effective therapies aiming at reducing the treatment burden and enhance therapy objectives.”

“The last few years witnessed the introduction of treatments, which do not lead to weight gain or very low blood sugar levels,” Dr Fiad added “Another milestone in diabetes therapies was the recent introduction of novel agents, which help lowering sugar levels without being reliant on the ability of the body to produce insulin and by the same token, they help in losing some weight,” he said.  These therapies are currently available in our region.

Dr Fiad pointed out that lifelong medical follow up is fundamentally important and patients need to seek medical support from experts throughout their entire diabetes journey.

“An effective partnership between diabetics and their healthcare providers goes a long way in fulfilling therapy objectives and ensuring the best possible health outcomes,” he said.

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is a common disease on the rise. Recent figures from the International Diabetes Federation show that almost 37 million people in the MENA region have diabetes, which if left unchecked will more than double by 2035.3 The UAE alone is home to over 800,000 people with diabetes.

These rising prevalence rates are a major concern for governments and health-insurance providers because people with T2D suffer from other related conditions like cardiovascular disease and kidney problems in far greater numbers than the general population.4

**Please note, Thumbay Group, Gulf Medical University, and HEALTH magazine are not liable nor responsible for the facts, figures, and overall content of the press releases on our portal.

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