Wednesday April 24, 2024

Over 10 million living with diabetes undiagnosed in Pakistan, warn experts

By M. Waqar Bhatti
March 11, 2021

There are around 38 to 40 million people living with diabetes in Pakistan, but more than 10 million of them are undiagnosed diabetics, experts said on Wednesday and urged that authorities should pay some more attention to non-communicable diseases, especially diabetes, in addition to dealing with infectious, communicable diseases.

“Pakistan is facing an epidemic of Type 2 diabetes, where, according to International Diabetes Federation (IDF), over 10 million people with diabetes don’t even know that they are suffering from the lifestyle disease. This is an alarming situation and needs immediate government attention,” said Dr Ibrar Ahmed, an endocrinologist and president-elect of the Pakistan Endocrine Society (PES), while talking to news on Wednesday.

Urging the people to take advantage of “Discovering Diabetes”, a project aimed at finding undiagnosed patients of diabetes in Pakistan, he asked the authorities, especially Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan, to give equal emphasis to non-communicable diseases like diabetes and seek his help with their project of discovering diabetes to reach out to around four million diabetics in Pakistan.

According to Dr Ahmed, anybody having a family history of diabetes and is more than 40 years of age with a wait circumference of 36 or more inches should immediately get themselves tested for diabetes.

“We have launched the Discovering Diabetes project to find out millions of missing diabetics. This project is a joint venture of the Pakistan Endocrine Society (PES) and PharmEvo, a local pharmaceutical company. A helpline has been established as part of the project to help people know their status of diabetes and get consultation with leading diabetologists of the country.”

“If you are 40 years old or above, have a family history of diabetes and your waist is more than 36 inches, you are either diabetic or going to become diabetic. Get yourself tested as soon as possible, and if a trained and qualified diabetologist or endocrinologist declares you diabetic, immediately start lifestyle modification along with medicines prescribed by your physician,” said Dr Ahmed.

He maintained that all such people who could be at the risk of developing diabetes should call on the toll-free number of Discovering Diabetes, i.e. 0800-66766, and seek free advice about their health status. He said their team would also help the caller have free consultation with any trained and qualified diabetologist through telemedicine.

“If the fasting blood sugar of person is between 110-124 mg/dL, he or she is prediabetic and they should start taking preventive measures. If the fasting sugar is 125 mg/dL or 200 mg/dL in random testing, it means that the person has diabetes. Similarly, HbA1C score 6.5 also indicates that a person is diabetic,” he said, adding that lifestyle modification by those diagnosed early could save people from serious complications of the disease.

To a query, he said that at the moment, dozens of people are daily calling from all over the world on the Discovering Diabetes helpline, who are being connected with health specialists through telemedicine, but the government should also play its role and give some attention to non-communicable diseases like diabetes in addition to Covid-19, typhoid, malaria and viral hepatitis.

PharmEvo Chief Executive Officer Syed Jamshed Ahmed said they had launched the telephonic facility in collaboration with the PES as a community service and to help millions of people who were living with this disease but did not know about their health status due to a lack of education and being unaware of the risk factors that caused diabetes.

He said people could get themselves screened for diabetes through the Discovering Diabetes project and immediately start changing their lifestyle and get medicines in consultation with doctors.

PharmEvo Managing Director Haroon Qasim called for making diabetes awareness a part of school curricula, saying that in a country with 26 per cent people living with diabetes, every child should know what they should eat and how to live a healthy life to protect themselves from contracting diabetes, blood pressure and other lifestyle diseases.

“At PharmEvo Limited, we’re striving for the creation of a healthier society, and Discovering Diabetes is one of our many projects to move in that direction.”