Andrew J.M. Boulton, MD, DSc


October 03, 2014

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Hello. I am Andrew Boulton, President of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD), here in Vienna at the 50th meeting of our association. We started small, holding our first meeting in Montecatini, Italy, in 1965. Next year we will celebrate 50 years since the foundation of EASD. Other groups are celebrating as well; our friends at the American Diabetes Association will have their 75th anniversary next year.

Here in Austria, what was then the Austrian-Hungarian Empire is having a more somber anniversary, because it is 100 years ago this month in this region that the world erupted into the First World War. This was triggered by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria when he was visiting Sarajevo and was assassinated by a Serb. A few months later, in September, war was declared on Serbia. Germany joined the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, and the rest you know. This was a terrible conflagration, and around 4.25 million people each year died on the battlefield.

But I would suggest to you that, 100 years later, the figures from diabetes are even more sobering. It was estimated by the International Diabetes Federation[1] in 2013 that more than 5 million deaths across the world occurred as a consequence of diabetes and its complications. One of the messages of my presidential address[2] here in Vienna was that there were many signs during the cascade of events that led to World War I, where intervention might have prevented war. Similarly, there are many occurrences across the world today that are contributing to the epidemic of type 2 diabetes. We could intervene and perhaps prevent this conflagration of diabetes occurring in the future.

Diabetes has major complications, and they are what drive costs. My message is that diabetes is a very serious disease. During my speech, I showed a picture of one of my patients with complications, whom I met when I first started as a consultant physician in Manchester 28 years ago. She asked me to take her photograph. She was blind, a bilateral amputee, only in her 40s, and on peritoneal dialysis.

We have shown from our research in the United Kingdom and in the United States that the outlook for such patients today is worse than the outlook for most malignant diseases, with the exception, perhaps, of lung and pancreas cancer.

So, we cannot say that diabetes is a mild disease, just a touch of sugar; we have to take this seriously. If we look at our colleagues working in cancer and heart disease, they are very effective at fundraising. I am not criticizing them; I am saying that we should emulate them. We have to be much more proactive in pushing for more funding and raising more funds for diabetes research, not only in Europe but across the world, to improve the lot of our patients with diabetes.


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