Medical Device Daily

The spiraling number of diabetes cases in the U.S. has prompted six major companies to band together to educate diabetes patients about the dangers of letting that chronic disease continue uncontrolled with the launch of a new advertising campaign.

The companies comprising the Diabetes Care Coalition are Abbott Diabetes Care (Abbott Park, Illinois); LifeScan (San Jose, California); Medtronic Diabetes (Minneapolis); Novo Nordisk (Copenhagen, Denmark); Roche Diagnostics (Indianapolis) and sanofi-aventis group (Paris). The coalition was formed last year.

The campaign, which for the first year is being launched only in Atlanta and Tampa, Florida, is titled “Know Your A1c,“ which is a measurement of control a patient has had over his or her diabetes the previous two to three months. How well a patient is controlling glucose levels over longer periods of time is an indication of how likely they are to suffer complications such as stroke, heart attack, blindness, neuralgia and amputations.

“There's a very strong desire in the diabetes community to get people to have better recognition that they need to be in good control,“ Deanne McGloughlin, communications manager of Medtronic Diabetes, told Medical Device Daily. “And if you look at the heart disease industry, they're very clear about . . . your blood pressure should be in this range, and with diabetes there's just not enough heightened awareness that you need to have good blood sugar control and what is that parameter.“

The A1c test, also known as the HbA1c test, or Hemoglobin A1c test, should not register higher than 7.0, according to the coalition. Currently, it is considered the “gold standard“ for assessing the success of diabetes therapy. While it is not a new test, it is an important indicator, although “it's not the only indicator,“ McGloughlin said.

Typically, a patient goes into a physician's office or clinic to get a blood test, which can be done in a matter of minutes or the patient can get lab results later, McGloughlin said. The coalition said that research indicates that 63% of Americans with diabetes have A1c levels greater than or equal to 7.0, according to the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES, 1999-2000). “More disturbingly,“ the coalition noted, the percentage has “increased significantly“ from 56% in NHANES III (1988-1994), which indicates what it called “a growing crisis of poor diabetes control.“

Perhaps more alarming, while there are more than 18 million Americans who have diabetes, there are estimated to be 5 million people who don't yet know they have the disease. And the situation is only expected to grow more dramatic.

“Today, 13 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes, and by the year 2050, that number is estimated to grow at least 29 million,“ said Thomas Boyer, executive director of the Diabetes Care Coalition. “Diabetes and diabetes-related complications consume one of every four Medicare dollars, and diabetes costs Americans at least $132 billion annually.“

The campaign consists of a web site, www.knowyoura1c.com, in addition to delivering information via television, radio, newspaper and magazine advertising and community outreach in the Atlanta and Tampa markets. It will continue in those markets through November, when the campaign will be assessed to determine if it needs to be refined before being launched nationwide, McGloughlin said.

The coalition said that the advertising “will drive the public to the web site and a toll-free number.“ Once they get to the web site or on a call, they will be asked three questions, McGloughlin said: “What is your target A1c level? How can you lower [your] A1c level? and What are your target blood pressure and cholesterol levels?“

The campaign “essentially focuses on making a link between diabetes and heart disease.“ On one radio spot in Atlanta, there are voices of a young man and woman envisioning the man's heart attack that will occur in the future, thereby shredding the temptation to think of diabetes as something that only older patients have to worry about.

Physicians also will have wallet cards for patients to keep with them so they will always know their target A1c and other test-level targets, as well as brochures on diabetes and appropriate testing.

“The concept is that two out of three people with diabetes will have a heart attack or stroke,“ McGloughlin said. “If you plan ahead, you may not be one of them.“

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