Many patients with type 2 diabetes could achieve remission if they had access to new treatments. However, Ireland is failing to invest in this area, leading to an increased risk of complications for patients, and more long-term costs for the health service, it has been claimed.
According to the Irish Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism (IrSPEN), type 2 diabetes, which affects over 200,000 people here, was always thought to be a chronic and progressive disease. However, thanks to medical advances, it is now known that the condition can be reversed in a large number of patients.
"We have the opportunity to help vast numbers of people living with the condition to go into remission. We have evidence from major trials which show that if a person with type 2 diabetes can lose two to three stone or 15% of their total weight, then that will allow 70% of people to go into remission. This level of weight loss can be achieved with diets in 20% of people, medications in 30% and surgery in 90% of people," explained IrSPEN spokesperson, Prof Carel le Roux.
He insisted that the proven treatment options to achieve remission "should be available to all citizens based upon need".
"With over 200,000 people living with the disease in Ireland, it is very expensive for the health service, costing the HSE 11 cents in every euro it spends on healthcare. By not providing treatments, the HSE ends up paying much more for the long-term complications of chronic diabetes," Prof le Roux said.
He emphasised that bringing patients into remission would greatly improve their quality of life and reduce the risk of complications, such as heart, eye and kidney problems.
"We have the opportunity to put type 2 diabetes into remission on a major population scale and should fully commit to doing so," he insisted.
Meanwhile, according to consultant surgeon and IrSPEN member, Prof Helen Heneghan, Ireland has been at the forefront of developing the evidence base for surgical treatments, which have proven to achieve diabetes remission, yet these treatments are not available to most people here who would benefit from them.
"Remission of type 2 diabetes should be a priority for the HSE, similar to what is happening in other European countries. The HSE should resource people with type 2 diabetes to access the care that will give them this opportunity.
"We can't yet predict how patients will respond to different treatments, but by having multiple options available, we can find the treatment solution for each individual and transform their lives," she said.
IrSPEN highlighted this issue to coincide with World Diabetes Day (November 14).
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