Diabetes Tech, Tx for the Lucky, Access for Others at IDF 2019

Miriam E. Tucker

November 25, 2019

The upcoming International Diabetes Federation (IDF) Congress 2019 will cover everything from novel diabetes technology to new medications to the struggles of diabetes management among many disadvantaged populations.

Taking place December 2-6 in Busan, South Korea, the conference is expected to draw approximately 10,000 attendees from around the world.

Of eight conference streams, five are also common themes at other major diabetes meetings: Basic and Translational Science, Clinical and Therapeutic Research, Diabetes Complications and Comorbidities, Education and Integrated Care, and Epidemiology and Public Health.

But three of the IDF streams — Diabetes and Women, Diabetes in Society and Culture, and Living With Diabetes — are less often a focus elsewhere, conference scientific program chair Edward Boyko, MD, told Medscape Medical News

"Diabetes in Society and Culture will examine cultural opportunities and barriers around the world. The Living With Diabetes stream will feature people with diabetes negotiating different challenges in their lives who are savvy about new developments," he explained.

These topics are "different" from other diabetes meetings, Boyko, of the University of Washington and staff physician at VA Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle, stressed to Medscape Medical News.

For IDF president Nam Cho, MD, the conference will highlight his own efforts over the past 2 years to bring attention to the struggles around diabetes in less-privileged parts of the world.

"My goal was to put more focus on humanitarian issues, especially in low-income countries where they're suffering with the high costs of insulin and overall diabetes care, including medicine," he told Medscape Medical News.

IDF Atlas: A Snapshot of the Current Diabetes Epidemic Worldwide

Those challenges will be underscored with the Wednesday morning presentation of the 2019 IDF Atlas.

Updated every 2 years, the 9th edition of the Atlas is a snapshot of the current diabetes epidemic worldwide and by individual region, along with future projections.

Since the 2017 Atlas, the global diabetes prevalence among people aged 29-79 years has risen from 425 to 463 million.

"We are campaigning every day, yet so many people are still diagnosed," said Cho, of Ajou University School of Medicine, South Korea.

But Cho has also injected a note of optimism into the introduction he has written for the 2019 Atlas.

"Despite the stark truth the data represent, there is a positive message: with early diagnosis and access to appropriate care, diabetes can be managed and its complications prevented. Furthermore, type 2 diabetes can often be prevented and there is compelling evidence to suggest it can be reversed in some cases," he writes.

Other global IDF initiatives included in the program are sessions on maternal–child health, noncommunicable disease prevention, managing diabetic retinopathy in low-resource settings, and how to translate diabetes prevention trials into real-world settings.

Technology and Clinical Topics, Including Some Controversies

One highlighted session of the meeting, Healthcare 2.0: Perspectives From 'Big Tech' on Their Evolving Role in the Medical World, will take place the evening of Wednesday December 4.

Speakers will include Samsung's Global Medical Director Ricky Cho, MD, MPH, and Verily-Google's Head of Diabetes Howard Zisser, MD, along with founders of other technology-focused firms. Representatives from Apple and Facebook have been invited but are not yet confirmed.

This session will be special, Cho told Medscape Medical News. "We'll hear how to improve diabetes management via hardware and software...It will be very nice to hear what our future in diabetes management is," he said.

Of course, there will also be plenty of clinical material, including new research presented in oral and display poster formats.

Several symposia will address new diabetes technologies, optimal uses of new oral agents for type 2 diabetes, management of diabetes in pregnancy and other issues specific to women with diabetes, as well as broader topics including diabetes complications, use of big data in diabetes management, and diabetes prevention. 

Although there won't be any new blockbuster study results presented at the meeting, "there's the opportunity to hear about the latest developments. Some trials have been presented previously but there may be updates. There's so much clinical progress that I think there will be interesting developments presented here," Boyko said.

In addition, areas of clinical disagreement will be addressed in eight hot-topic debates, including whether glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists or insulin should be the first injectable in type 2 diabetes; whether women with diabetes need more aggressive cardiovascular risk reduction than men; whether oral hypoglycemics should be used in gestational diabetes; and whether strict glycemic control is "meaningless" in the elderly.

Overall, Boyko said, "There's not just one thing here. It's a big meeting with a lot of interesting things going on. It's a meeting with a broad objective."

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