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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Health Minister joins patient groups, academics and industry to tackle alarming surge in diabetes-related kidney disease

Health Industry Hub | July 4, 2023 |

Pharma News: Federal Health Minister, Mark Butler MP, joined Diabetes Australia at a launch event held at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne. The occasion marked the introduction of a new report that sheds light on the alarming surge in diabetes-related kidney disease, and its catastrophic impact on Australia’s healthcare system.

Startling statistics revealed that one out of every 20 hospitalisations in the country involves a person with diabetes undergoing dialysis. Experts project that this figure will rise exponentially, with kidney failure rates expected to soar by a staggering 45% by 2040. The report estimated that this condition exacts an annual cost of $2.68 billion on Australia, with the majority of the burden ($1.9 billion) falling on individuals with diabetes who experience kidney failure.

To combat this looming crisis, the report urged the implementation of a Diabetes Kidney Disease Screening Program. This program would ensure that individuals with diabetes who are at high risk of developing end-stage kidney disease are detected early, when treatments are most effective.

Justine Cain, Group CEO of Diabetes Australia, hailed the report as compelling proof of the urgent need for early intervention to prevent kidney failure. “Currently, an estimated 330,000 people are living with diabetes-related kidney disease, accounting for about a quarter of all individuals with diabetes,” Ms Cain explained. “Over 10,000 Australians living with diabetes are undergoing kidney replacement therapy, including dialysis or kidney transplantation.”

Shockingly, less than a quarter (23%) of people with diabetes are getting their kidneys checked within the recommended timeframes. This is due to various factors, including the complexity of kidney health checks, the challenges of living with diabetes overall, and a lack of awareness about chronic kidney disease.

Professor Richard MacIsaac, Director of Endocrinology at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne and co-author of the report, stressed the importance of preventing dialysis whenever possible. He stated, “Dialysis takes a tremendous toll on the quality of life for those receiving it and represents an enormous burden on our healthcare system. A person on dialysis visits the hospital over 150 times a year, requiring approximately 780 hours of care. However, by detecting kidney disease early, we can effectively halt or slow its progression using existing medicines.”

Professor Elif Ekinci, the lead author of the report and Director of the Australian Centre for Accelerating Diabetes Innovation, emphasised that the report served as a clarion call for urgent action. “Diabetes is one of the most pressing health challenges of our time, and one of the key reasons for this is the significant impact of complications like kidney disease,” Professor Ekinci said. “The report provides clear recommendations to improve rates of kidney disease screening, and if we can reduce the impact of diabetes-related kidney disease, we will make a tremendous difference.”

The presence of Kidney Health Australia at the event further underscored the gravity of the situation. The organisation’s representatives welcomed Minister Butler’s remarks on chronic kidney disease, labelling it a national emergency.

In a social media post, Ashraf Al-Ouf, CEO of Bayer Group Australia and New Zealand, expressed his support for the cause, stating, “The PBS listing of our medicine Kerendia (finerenone) follows a three-fold increase in rates of diabetes-induced kidney failure in the last 20 years, which has made dialysis the leading cause of hospitalisation in Australia. Having lost a dear family friend to diabetes-induced kidney failure, I feel strongly about this topic.”

Eduardo Pimenta, Country Medical Director of Bayer Pharma ANZ, echoed these sentiments, exclaiming, “Access to this medicine could not have come soon enough.”

Ms Cain emphasised that reducing the impact of diabetes-related kidney disease is a cost-effective endeavour. It does not require the establishment of new clinics, operating theatres, or hospital beds. Instead, it involves optimising existing health infrastructure, databases, and services to increase screening rates. One proposed solution is leveraging the NDSS database managed by Diabetes Australia to facilitate recall and reminders for kidney checks among all Australians living with diabetes. Improved integration with existing GP and pathology software would also enhance information sharing among healthcare team members.

“This screening can be done using existing Medicare item numbers, utilising primary care services and pathology providers,” Ms Cain added. “It is one of the most cost-effective interventions we can implement throughout the entire health system. Modelling indicates that every dollar spent on detecting and preventing chronic kidney disease yields a return of around $45. By getting this right, we can save lives and alleviate the burden of diabetes complications on our healthcare system.”

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