NEW TREATMENT. Philippine Society of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism president Dr. Michael Villa (left) and Philippine Heart Association vice president Dr. Gilbert Vilela were participants in an online forum that tackled diabetes and other related diseases on Thursday (May 6, 2021). The forum also introduced the Novo Nordisk once-weekly, glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor agonist that is said to reduce blood sugar levels and body weight. (Contributed photo)

MANILA – Community restrictions and remote work arrangements keep Filipinos at home and safe from Covid-19.

However, experts said lack of exercise and decreased activity lead to other medical conditions like obesity, which may develop to Type 2 diabetes mellitus or adult diabetes.

"The pandemic and subsequent lockdown have directly affected diabetes control. There is the lack of accessibility, the limitation of movement and lack of exercise, and an increase in anxiety and fear amongst patients and their families," Dr. Gilbert Vilela, vice president of the Philippine Heart Association, highlighted in a virtual conference with reporters on Thursday.

Philippine Statistics Authority data showed that deaths due to diabetes mellitus ranked fourth in 2020 at 37,265, after heart diseases (99,680), cancer (62,289), and cerebrovascular diseases (59,736).

Deaths by diabetes mellitus, which Vilela said is “a very silent and persistent problem”, increased by 7.8 percent from the 2019 tally.

Vilela said four million adults in the Philippines are diagnosed with diabetes and common comorbidities and complications with type 2 diabetes, including heart diseases.

More than 32 percent of those with type 2 diabetes have cardiovascular complications, while more than 87 percent are either overweight or obese, according to their data.

"For the past three years, ischemic heart disease, cancer, and pneumonia have been listed as the top three causes of death in Filipinos, with diabetes following in fourth place. However, the news here is that the increase in ischemic heart disease is only 2.3 percent, while cancer went down by about 10 percent, and pneumonia by about six percent. Diabetes went up by 7.8 percent,” Vilela said.

Lifestyle change

Dr. Michael Villa, President of the Philippine Society of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, underscored a change of behavior.

“Type 2 diabetes makes up about 85 percent of patients with diabetes. These patients have multiple risk factors. Some are smokers, some are hypertensive, some have cholesterol problems,” Villa said.

“There should be a national coordinated effort to continue preventing other non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, and this is one of the things we are encouraging," he said.

New, affordable treatment

Novo Nordisk, a global leader in diabetes care, is encouraging Filipinos to become more aware of the risks associated with type 2 diabetes and innovative treatment options.

To address the unmet needs of Filipinos with type 2 diabetes, Novo Nordisk is introducing a once-weekly, glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist.

Experts said the treatment work by “activating GLP-1 receptors in the pancreas, which leads to enhanced insulin release and reduced glucagon release-responses that are both glucose-dependent-with a consequent low risk for hypoglycemia (low blood sugar level).”

"We’re at the forefront of innovating GLP-1 treatments, helping people with type 2 diabetes address cardiovascular risk and its other multiple risk factors,” Cihan Serdar Kizilcik, vice president and general manager of Novo Nordisk Philippines, said in a statement.

Kizilcik said the injectable drug has been studied in over 10,000 type 2 diabetes patients worldwide and has led to greater reductions in both blood sugar levels and body weight, compared to other commonly used treatments for type 2 diabetes as well as providing cardiovascular benefits.

The GLP-1 receptor agonist is a prescribed drug and should not be taken without seeking medical consultation, he cautioned. (PNA)