Today, there are more than 160 medicines in development for diabetes and diabetes-related conditions, including diabetic kidney disease, diabetic neuropathy, diabetic macular edema and diabetic gastroparesis.
Diabetes is a major public health issue in the United States. Affecting more than 30 million Americans, including more than seven million who are undiagnosed, the impact of this chronic condition, which includes both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, is only expected to increase in the coming decades. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of Americans with diabetes is projected to double or even triple by 2050.
Despite significant advances over the years, diabetes remains a complex disease to treat. It requires diligent management, frequent testing and monitoring of diet and exercise, often alongside a range of treatments to maintain healthy and stable blood glucose levels. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to serious complications—such as heart disease, kidney disease/failure, blindness, painful neuropathy and lower-extremity amputations—highlighting the need for a range of treatment options to meet the needs of those struggling with the inherent challenges of everyday diabetes management.
Because there is no one-size-fits-all approach to diabetes management, America’s biopharmaceutical researchers are exploring new and varied approaches to fight diabetes and diabetes-related conditions. In fact, continuous advances in the treatment of diabetes over the past decade alone have dramatically simplified treatment regimens and improved patient adherence and quality of life. These advances include:
- Insulins that Offer Greater Flexibility: Two ultra-long-acting insulins offer glycemic control for 24 hours and beyond, provide greater flexibility in dosing and can reduce the burden of daily injections. An inhaled rapid-acting insulin offers administration immediately before meals and a needle-free option for patients. An ultra-rapid-acting insulin provides the flexibility of administration before, during, or even after meals.
- Oral Combinations that Improve Adherence: More than 10 oral combination medicines, each combining more than one class of diabetes medication, offer to reduce pill burden. Diabetes patients on combination medications are more adherent, use fewer health care resources and have increased life expectancy than those on multiple single dose therapies.
- New Medicines to Reduce Cardiovascular Risk: Three medicines stemming from two classes of medicine known as SGLT2 inhibitors and GLP1 agonist receptors have been shown to reduce risk of major adverse cardiac events, such as heart attack or stroke, or death.
In addition to these innovations, insulin manufacturers are working alongside digital health platform manufacturers to develop products that connect dosing data from insulin pen devices with diabetes management solutions, allowing for connection of real-time monitoring and precise dosing information. This type of innovation can reduce the monitoring burden on patients and allow for more precise and effective delivery of insulin. This significant paradigm shift in treatment is incredible to see, says Dr. Laura Michael, a researcher at Eli Lilly and Company.
“We’re seeing more and more devices that self-regulate medication, such as insulin, so that patients can go about their day without worrying so much about it,” she says. “It’s truly remarkable, and something scientists could barely dream up just a few decades ago.”
Despite continuous advances in diabetes treatments, however, many patients struggle to afford their insulin and other diabetes medications at the pharmacy counter. Even though prices for insulin after discounts and rebates have fallen in recent years, these negotiated savings are often not shared with patients, resulting in patients with diabetes paying higher out-of-pocket costs for their insulin than their insurer. Patients shouldn’t bear a bigger financial burden than their insurance companies, and biopharmaceutical companies are working at all levels to fix the system.
Patients don’t have time to wait for the health system to change. That’s why, in addition to developing cutting-edge treatments to make managing diabetes easier, America’s biopharmaceutical companies are also fighting for ways to make these innovations more affordable and accessible for patients. Ultimately, this commitment ensures treatments can reach diabetes patients in need.
“Medical researchers are really special people to have such a passion for helping people like me and for other people with diabetes,” says Sara, a type 1 diabetes patient. “They’re doing amazing work, and I’m so thankful that they are.”
Learn more about the more than 160 medicines in development for diabetes and diabetes-related conditions.