Diabetes takes more lives within a month in Pakistan than Covid-19 has killed during the entire course of the pandemic in the country, health experts said on Wednesday.
They urged the authorities, people and the media to highlight the complications of diabetes, including the diabetic foot, a leading cause of amputations and disability in Pakistan.
In addition to dozens of deaths on a daily basis, 35 people lost their lower limbs evert day in Pakistan, they said and warned that diabetic amputations were on the rise, and if appropriate measures were not taken immediately, 300,000 to 6,00,000 people might lose their legs because of diabetic foot ulcers in the country in 2022.
“Diabetes is a 10 times more serious and lethal health issue for Pakistan, which claims 34,000 lives in a month, while Covid-19 has so far claimed around 29,000 deaths in the country since the pandemic started. Even the diabetic foot, one of the complications of diabetes, results in more deaths and disabilities than does Covid-19,” Dr Zahid Miyan, president of Diabetic Foot International (DFI), told a moot in Karachi on Wednesday.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the Baqai Institute of Diabetology and Endocrinology (BIDE), Karachi, and local pharmaceutical firm Tabros Pharma for the establishment of 10 diabetic foot clinics in Karachi for the treatment of diabetic foot ulcers and the prevention of diabetic amputations.
President National Association of Diabetes Educators of Pakistan (NADEP) Dr Saif-ul-Haq, renowned podiatrist Dr Riaz Memon, Irum Ghafoor and other healthcare officials were also present.
Dr Zahid Miyan deplored that despite being the most serious health issue in Pakistan, most of the public health facilities lacked trained and qualified diabetologists for the treatment of diabetes, while hardly any public health facility had trained specialists to deal with diabetic foot ulcers and prevent amputations.
“Of the 300,000 to 600,000 amputations, 85 per cent are avoidable if people get the standard treatment on time. The diabetic foot starts from a small blister or wound in the foot of a patient with diabetes, and if not taken care of properly in the initial stage, it can lead to amputation and later in the death of the patient,” Dr Miyan said and deplored that the deaths following diabetic amputations were not being recorded in Pakistan.
Around 70 per cent of people who lose their lower limbs due to diabetic foot die within five years, international and national data indicates, he said, adding that diabetes and the diabetic foot are a more serious problem as compared to most of the cancers and other malignancies in Pakistan.
Under the Fast Track Programme, the BIDE was establishing diabetic foot clinics in collaborations with the local pharmaceutical industry where physicians and their assistants were being trained to identify and treat patients with a diabetic foot and, in case of complications, to timely refer the patient to a secondary or tertiary-care facility in the country, he said.
Tabros Pharma representative Faisal Khan said their company was supporting the BIDE in establishing 10 clinics initially in Karachi, where patients with diabetic foot would be treated, and hoped that their collaboration with the BIDE would grow in the days to come.
“We are proud to be part of the Fast Track Initiative with the BIDE, which is a world renowned and respectable health facility. We hope that the number of diabetic foot clinics would grow in the days to come and more people would have access to quality healthcare,” he added.