Reducing the Burden of Diabetes: 3 Takeaways from the ADA’s Recent Report

By Rod Wooten, Vice President, Cardiovascular and Metabolic Diseases, AstraZeneca

I recently reviewed the American Diabetes Association (ADA)’s April 2018 report highlighting trends in the economic costs of diabetes in the U.S. over the past five years. The numbers paint a sobering picture about the impact of diabetes on individual patients and the nation. For those of us working in healthcare, the report reinforces the urgency of coming together to change the treatment paradigm for the millions of patients affected or at risk. I was struck by three critical takeaways, which serve as an important reminder of why the work we are doing today is so important.


1. Despite the treatment options available today, people living with diabetes continue to face significant challenges to daily life, causing them to be less productive.

Nearly 10% of the U.S. adult population is diagnosed with diabetes, as of 2017. Diabetes can make it difficult to perform daily activities and despite the treatments available today, people living with diabetes have fewer days at work, less productivity (on the job and at home) and may be unemployed due to their illness. In total, the ADA found that diabetes resulted in $90 billion in lost productivity between 2012-2017. This staggering figure represents a tremendous need to improve the care we provide to better manage diabetes; we must work together to address this for the benefit of our society.

2. Changing the course of diabetes requires addressing inter-related comorbidities.

The ADA found that a large portion of medical costs associated with diabetes is due to comorbidities. Nearly 90% of people with diabetes have at least two underlying disorders, such as cardiovascular disease (CVD), chronic kidney disease (CKD) or hyperlipidaemia. More than half of type 2 diabetes patients die from a cardiovascular related event such as heart failure or stroke As a research community, we must recognize that these conditions often co-exist and dare to do things differently to address the immense unmet need. It is imperative that we explore the patient holistically to transform the science and treatment landscape.

3. Solving a health challenge of this scale cannot be accomplished in isolation; collaboration is critical.

As the report points out, diabetes places an enormous burden on society in both economic and quality of life terms, and this burden is growing over time. The data underscore the need for a simultaneous focus on diabetes prevention, earlier diagnosis and treatment, and increased investment in the research of new therapies. Reducing the burden for those living with diabetes and society today will therefore require a multi-disciplinary approach to improve overall health outcomes.

I want to thank the ADA for publishing this important report, as it helps to quantify why our attention to diabetes, and to the inter-related co-morbidities, is so critical. The data reinforces the importance of our commitment to advancing the science and transforming the treatment paradigm for the millions of people living with diabetes as well as those at risk.

AstraZeneca has a longstanding legacy in cardiovascular and metabolic science and continues to be a pioneer in the industry, both with our current portfolio and innovation-rich pipeline. Today, our distinct science-driven strategy focuses on the clinical overlap between comorbidities. We are challenging ourselves to better understand how our portfolio of medicines might be used to help address multiple risk factors or co-morbidities, and if combinations of these medicines might offer unique benefits for patients.

We are also grateful to the many actors who are working to reduce the diabetes burden through complimentary solutions. We support national and community level organizations providing patient education and peer support, scientific initiatives, healthcare professional education and engagement. We will continue to invest in life-changing research while supporting the efforts of other important collaborators.

As this ADA report highlights, despite the many improved treatment options available, more work remains to be done in order to improve outcomes. I challenge all of us in the healthcare community to put additional effort behind coming together to do better for diabetes patients. Only through collaboration will we reduce the rate of new diabetes cases, achieve earlier diagnosis and treatment, and ultimately deliver therapies with the potential to slow and prevent the progression of the disease, delivering improved outcomes for millions of patients and society.