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Anti-diabetes campaign under way
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A surge in the number of diabetes cases in China is attracting the attention of anti-diabetes campaigns by companies such as German-based pharmaceutical giant Bayer Healthcare.

Professor, Yuan Shenyuan, from Beijing Tongren hospital, calls on residents to join a community healthcare contest. Bayer's healthcare division and the Ministry of Health became partners in an anti-diabetes campaign. File photo

Professor, Yuan Shenyuan, from Beijing Tongren hospital, calls on residents to join a community healthcare contest. Bayer's healthcare division and the Ministry of Health became partners in an anti-diabetes campaign. File photo

The Ministry of Health reports there are approximately 40 million diabetic patients in China.

About 1.5 million new cases are reported each year, according to the ministry.

The International Diabetes Federation projects that the current number of diabetic people in China might double by 2025.

Experts blame the country's aging population, unhealthy lifestyles and even environmental pollution as among the factors contributing to the increase in diabetes cases.

Education and stronger monitoring of blood glucose levels are effective tools in preventing or detecting and treating diabetes, said Ulrich Koestlin, a member of the Board of Management in Bayer Schering Pharmacy AG.

Bayer's healthcare division and the Ministry of Health this month became partners in an anti-diabetes campaign that will be initiated in 31 cities across China.

During the next three years, the anti-diabetes campaign, which will include training doctors in the 31 cities, will be conducted by experts from the Ministry of Health, Chinese Medical Doctor Association (CMDA) and Bayer Healthcare China.

Yang Jing of the CMDA said the anti-diabetes campaign is in line with the goals of the country's three-year, 850 billion yuan medical system reform package.

Diabetes in China

Diabetes occurs when the body's pancreas does not produce enough insulin.

Currently, diabetic patients in China represent more than 3.1 percent of the country's population.

Diabetics comprised only 0.6 percent of the population in 1978

"Undoubtedly, the country's rapid economic growth has been linked to a corresponding rise in chronic disease sufferers, especially when it comes to diabetes," said Koestlin.

"There is a great need for public education and professional diabetes management in China," Koestlin said. She added that introducing home monitoring systems and working with community hospitals is important to that effort.

China's 850 billion yuan medical system reform package is aimed in part at making healthcare more affordable and also more accessible.

"Bayer, as a world leader in home blood glucose monitoring systems, can deliver diabetes management tools to diabetic patients through a large-scale program," said Liam Condon, managing director of Bayer Healthcare China.

As part of the three-year efforts, Bayer Healthcare China will build Bayer Diabetes Houses in small neighborhoods in Beijing, Shanghai and in Guangdong province, according to the company.

Bayer's efforts

For futher strengthening its market share in China's anti-diabetes drug market, Bayer has recently signed an exclusive supply and distribution agreement with Polish insulin producer Bioton, with the total investment of 31 million euros.

"Bayer is almost one of the top multinational pharmaceutical companies in China with our successful anti-diabetes products. Through the cooperation with Bioton and the following plans for building more Diabetes Houses in China, we will further cater to patients suffering from diabetes, and will expand our position in the country," said Koestlin.

Bayer Healthcare already has built Bayer Diabetes Houses in other communities across China during the past several years.

Yang of the CMDA said the facilities are information clearinghouses for the public on diabetes detection and treatment, as well as on steps that people can take to prevent the onset of Type 2 (adult onset) diabetes.

Earlier this year, Bayer Schering Pharmacy AG announced plans to invest up to 100 million euros ($129.2 million) over the next five years to establish a research and development (R&D) center in Beijing.

Diabetes will be a major focus of that new R&D center.

Koestlin of Bayer Schering told China Business Weekly that pharmaceutical firms are focusing more attention on growing healthcare needs in general in China.

"We will continue to hire local staff to support our R&D, sales and distribution forces in China," Koestlin said.

"We also intend to expand our community outreach in China's eastern, central and western areas to help prevent chronic diseases and to promote healthier lifestyles," Koestlin said.

(China Daily July 27, 2009)

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