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The increasing prevalence of diabetes means there are many opportunities to invest in diabetes research and treatment.

Diabetes, a chronic disease caused by the pancreas not producing enough insulin or the body being unable to use insulin, is a serious problem around the world.

According to the World Health Organization, 347 million people worldwide have diabetes, while diabetes and its complications are anticipated to be the seventh leading cause of death globally by 2030. Further, recent research from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that one in five Americans could have diabetes by 2025, with that figure rising to one in three by 2050.

Current diabetes research

The diabetes situation worldwide has led many scientists and medical professionals to undertake research aimed at helping people manage the disease more effectively. This research is of great importance, and is only becoming more urgent as the prevalence of diabetes across all nations rises.

As there is currently no cure for diabetes, diabetes medicine and medical devices are for the most part aimed at treating the disease. Managing diabetes often requires careful attention to a patient’s blood glucose levels and insulin needs, two aspects of treatment that companies continue to automate. Significant milestones in recent research include the development of insulin pumps that communicate with continuous blood glucose monitoring devices and the creation of an artificial pancreas that makes insulin for patients whose bodies do not do so.

Investing in diabetes

Many large pharmaceutical companies are concentrating on such research, meaning that there are diverse investment opportunities in diabetes research and treatment. And, the increasing prevalence of the disease means many of these opportunities have the potential for great growth.

For example, technologies being developed by MannKind (NASDAQ:MNKD) include a dry powder pulmonary inhalation delivery system that mimics the pharmacokinetics of intra-arterial administration — that is, it provides a way to deliver through an inhaler medication that usually requires injection. The system is important for diabetes because it can deliver insulin. Indeed, a recent study shows that the use of an artificial pancreas coupled with the use of an insulin inhaler created using MannKind’s technology can result in bioidentical insulin levels for people living with type 1 diabetes.

The ability to deliver insulin via inhaler is significant because clinicians often encounter psychological insulin resistance, or a strong aversion from patients to the idea of insulin therapy. Reasons for such aversion include perceived inconvenience and imagined pain from injections, both of which inhaled insulin delivery systems can mitigate. Delaying insulin therapy because of psychological resistance can be very dangerous, and technologies that offer solutions to this issue are thus valuable in diabetes treatment.

Medtronic (NYSE:MDT), which concentrates entirely on diabetes, currently offers artificial pancreas technology, technologically advanced insulin pumps and products that offer continuous glucose monitoring. Its MiniMed 530G with Enlite insulin pump with glucose sensor works as an artificial pancreas for type 1 diabetics, patients whose own bodies won’t produce insulin.

The device features the Enlite sensor, which measures glucose levels and will suspend bolus dosing of insulin when blood glucose levels drop below a certain threshold. That prevents hypoglycemia and the attendant risks of that state. Furthermore, the pump delivers both bolus and basal insulin to keep patients healthy. Other products from the company also incorporate blood glucose level monitoring technology.

Sanofi (NYSE:SNY) produces medicine for many diseases, including diabetes. Its suite of products for diabetes management includes long-acting insulin, rapid-acting insulin, a range of rapid and intermediate insulins, GLP-1 receptor agonists and a sulfonylurea-class hypoglycemic.

Though the common perception of diabetes treatment involves only insulin, many other drugs are available and are often advisable. Sanofi provides those as well as systems for their delivery, including disposable and reusable injection pens. Sanofi has also developed medical devices specifically meant for those in emerging markets with diabetes. Additionally, the company has partnered with other organizations to create blood glucose monitors, including some that estimate Ab1C as well as read blood glucose levels.

Finally, Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY) now has the largest clinical development pipeline in its history and focuses its efforts on areas that include diabetes. The company has 13 new molecular entities for the treatment of diabetes in various stages of clinical development.

 

Related reading: 

Diabetes: An Introduction

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