By Leocadia Bongben
CameroonPostline.com -- Prof. Jean Claude Mbanya, endocrinologist at the Faculty of Medicine and Biological Sciences University of Yaounde I, has said diabetic patients in Cameroon are poorly controlled. The outgoing President of the International Diabetes Federation made the declaration during the second African Diabetes Conference that opened in Yaounde on February 25.
He said insulin-treatment for diabetes patients is limited and poorly used in most patients, leading to poor control of glycaemia (the level of sugar in the blood) and in the long run, haemoglobin, which is the measuring index. For patients not to develop complications, haemoglobin has to be less than five percent. Mbanya said only 39 percent of the patients have the equipment to control their glycaemia, stating that it is difficult to control patients without knowing their level of glycaemia.
Control for a chronic disease like diabetes entails many factors; education of the patients, telling patients that diabetes does not mean death, that it can be controlled to avoid complications. He insisted that patients have to know their ailment and know how to control it, adding that it is abnormal for many patients to ostay on oral anti-diabetes drugs for about 20 years with only few not developing complications.
He maintained that much needs to be done to control glycaemia and anterior hypertension, observing that patients are developing complications because they are not properly controlled.
About 19.3 million people live with diabetes in the Africa. The figure is estimated to double in 2035 to 41.5 percent. Mbanya said 60 percent of diabetes patients are not yet diagnosed in Cameroon.
Said Norou Diop, lecturer at the Faculty of Medicine, Cheik Anta Diop University in Senegal, said focus is on prevention. According to Diop, the strategy is through voluntary action by the health professionals, for the doctors to be well trained and, in this light, 1,000 doctors have been trained on diabetes treatment.
The population, he said, should change lifestyles: eat less sugar, salt and fatty foods, walk at least 30 minutes every day. This helps to prevent anterior hypertension and clotting of cholesterol, which is a cardiovascular disease risk factor. He warned that there is no bread and life for diabetic patients. There may be light drinks but the population should read the notice to know the components to ascertain if actually it contains less sugar.
Little sugar is removed from rice but sugar remains. He said proper feeding for patients entail knowing the components; proteins found in fish, meat and egg; cereals, vitamin A in vegetables and fruits and calcium from milk and milk derivatives. Diop stressed “there is need to eat and also move”, stating that the challenge is to ensure early diagnosis and access to treatment which is expensive.
In partnership with Government, Sanofi, a pharmaceutical firm based in Africa, has been striving to get the drugs closer to the patients. Thanks to the innovations and research by the company, Philomene Akonoze who has been living with diabetes for the past six years can now takes her insulin in the required dose with the injection pen.
Akonoze who before diagnosis was urinating after every 10 minutes, and was very thirsty, was very tired and thought diabetes signified death can now live with the disease
“I know how to control my glycaemia and the dose of insulin to take. I was programmed on insulin and today my glycaemia has stabilised,” she said. But the pharmaceutical company is not stopping in the search for innovations, as Amy Ndoa Fall, Sanofi West Africa Medical and Regulatory Director, says the ‘Allstar’ injection key innovation would be released to the market early 2015.
“For the patients, this would remove the discomfort of having to go through injections with the risk of pushing the needle too far; the patient can move with the pen and with just a click, the right quantity of insulin is released.” The injection pen is going through the registration process to be released into the market but if issues of cost are not viewed in partnership with governments, only a few patients would have access to the comfort of this treatment.
First published in The Post print edition 01508