Virtual Reality: EASD to Showcase All Presentations Online

September 16, 2013

For those unable to make it to Barcelona for the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) meeting next week, there's no need to fret, because the conference will be "a truly virtual experience this year," said Viktor Jörgens, MD, executive director of the EASD.

All of the research reported at EASD meeting — the largest international conference on diabetes, with an anticipated 19,000 attendees — will be available online within 20 minutes of each presentation, Dr. Jörgens explained.

This, together with coverage on medical news sites such as Medscape Medical News, which he stresses provides "valuable added context," will enable doctors and researchers all over the world to feel as if they are in Barcelona, even if they can't make the journey, he noted.

The coverage, which will be available at www.easdvirtualmeeting.org, will include a 2-minute oral summary from each of the approximately 350 presenters and links to their slides, where they have granted permission, as well as the contents of all the posters. Making the information available in this way ensures that the Webcasts are small in size and quick to buffer with even the slowest Internet connections and that the information can be accessed via PCs, Macs, and Android and IPhone devices. In addition, people can leave comments for the presenters, who are encouraged to respond.

"Our aim is to be like a European soccer match, such as Bayern Munich vs Barcelona, where you might have 80,000 people in the stadium, but 80 million watching worldwide," said Dr. Jörgens. Talking with Medscape Medical News ahead of the meeting, to be held from September 23 to September 28, he picked out what he believes will be some of the highlights.

Further Discussion on a Range of Safety Issues

The safety of diabetes drugs and devices will be a central component of the 2013 EASD meeting, with much conference time allotted to some important issues in this field, said Dr. Jörgens.

This will include a full dissection of the recent SAVOR-TIMI 53 and EXAMINE cardiovascular safety trials with 2 gliptin (dipeptidyl peptidase-4 [DPP-4] inhibitor) diabetes drugs, reported recently at the European Society of Cardiology meeting. Although the preliminary findings were reassuring, the results "will be presented in more detail," said Dr. Jörgens, and the signal for heart-failure hospitalization with saxagliptin and its implications will be further examined, with a full assessment of the risk/benefit profile of this drug class.

There will also be more information about the risk of pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer, another possible safety issue with the gliptins and the related glucagonlike peptide (GLP)-1 receptor agonist drugs, collectively known as incretins, which has hit the headlines this year.

And the issue of safety with regard to medical devices for diabetes care in the European Union will also be debated, said Dr. Jörgens, who noted that "in Europe, there is no FDA-like institution for quality." There have been many scandals with devices in Europe as a result of the lack of regulation, he explains, including breast implants and hip-joint replacements, and the EASD is lobbying the European Commission for tighter controls.

"This is a really urgent political issue. If you take into account the range of possible mistakes that can result from [inadequate] blood glucose monitoring, often due to financial reasons," these have the potential to be a bigger problem than inappropriate drug use, he stressed.

People with Type 1 Diabetes Living Longer Than Ever

There will also be some good news, he noted. One of the most exciting presentations will center on new European data showing that people with type 1 diabetes are living longer than ever, said Dr. Jörgens.

"The life expectancy of type 1 diabetics has increased substantially, and this has never been shown before, to this extent — we are seeing the fruits of 30 years of work and the positive effects of trials such as the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT)," he said.

Unfortunately, however, other new research will show that despite these gains, people with type 1 diabetes still suffer socially— they are less likely to be in professional careers and earn less, on average, than those without diabetes, he explains. Thus, it is important to encourage patient advocacy and to delve deeper into the reasons behind these inequalities, he noted.

And work on an eventual cure remains vital, he adds, noting that there will be a special press conference from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) describing the future for cell-based therapies for this condition. "Maybe type 1 will be cured by implantation of cells or by artificial beta cells. Whichever one wins, it will be great to finally have a breakthrough in type 1 diabetes," he observed.

Other highlights at the meeting will include new 15-year data from the landmark UK Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS) in type 2 diabetes, as well as a debate on the topic of long-acting insulin. "Some people say it's a nice idea, and some say why?" Dr. Jörgens noted, so the Michael Berger debate on this, entitled "The longer the better?", will likely garner much interest, he said.

And also likely to draw a good crowd will be a discussion of lipid lowering in diabetes, as well as a session on the appropriateness of bariatric surgery for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

Added to this will be many presentations on numerous novel agents for diabetes, said Dr. Jörgens, who noted that there is "no other field of research where there are so many new drugs in development, with so many different modes of action, involving practically all the major pharmaceutical companies in the world."

Dr. Jörgens has reported no relevant financial relationships.

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