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On 25 January, Health First Europe attended the launch of the London School of Economic Policy Recommendations for Reducing the Burden of Diabetes in Europe.  The event was hosted by MEP Christel Schaldemose (S&D, Denmark) along with the Parliament Magazine and Novo Nordisk and aimed to highlight the significant burden diabetes places on patients, carers and health systems throughout Europe in order to initiate concrete coordination and support amongst Member States to tackle diabetes.

The Danish Minister for European Affairs, Mr. Nicolai Wanmen, began the event by declaring the priorities of the Danish presidency in health which will focus on chronic diseases and healthcare innovation.  He expressed that the Presidency goals are prevention (addressing the underlying causes of disease) and patient empowerment (increasing patient self-management capability) in order to combat the economic and demographic challenges the Europe currently faces.  The Danish Presidency refers to its health programme as “Smart health, better lives” which it believes can address many of the complications European health systems have.

The economic impact of diabetes is clearly significant as shown by the study authored by London School of Economics Professor Panos Kanavos.  The study looked to identify and compare 5 EU Member States’ evidence on the burden, cost and management of diabetes and then offer policy recommendations based on the information gathered.  Mr. Kanavos explained in detail how the differences in monitoring prevalence and delivering diabetes care make it difficult to fully grasp the incidence and impact of diabetes.  However, the research showed that key cost drivers for health systems – both direct and indirect costs (such as social benefits, early retirement, absenteeism, etc.) – are the complications associated with the disease.  Monitoring and improving diabetes care at the national level through data-driven diabetes plans is essential.  At EU level, Mr. Kanavos argued for “coordination and support of Member States” particularly through a European Diabetes Observatory.

Further underlining the importance of acting in this disease area, Mr. Martin Soeters, Senior Vice President, Novo Nordisk presented stark statistics about diabetes including the fact that it is estimated that 6 million people in the EU are currently undiagnosed.  He suggested that almost €200 billion is spent on diabetes annually in the EU (both directly and indirectly), 75% of which goes directly towards treating complications.  These numbers make prevention and early treatment even more important as was expressed by Professor Leszek Czupryniak, the Director of International Postgraduate Education at the European Association for diabetes studies.  Mr. Czupryniak explained the importance of early intervention in the treatment of diabetes for the quality of life of the patient and the decrease in cost for the health system.  However, such early intervention assumes more initial upfront costs for payers.

Overall, the event showed the enormous impact diabetes is having on European patients and health systems but also offered policy solutions for lessening the future impact of the disease.  Participants were clear that prevention needs to be the focus of both Member States and EU policymakers to reduce the burden of diabetes.