A new technology for diabetes in Africa

Diabetes is growing rapidly in sub-Saharan Africa due to urbanization and an aging population. Although once considered as rare in this region, it is estimated that diabetes will affect over 13 million people in sub-Saharan Africa in 2012 and that 350,000 of these people will die of associated diseases, but that so far only 15% of all diabetes cases in sub-Saharan Africa are diagnosed. By 2030, there will be an estimated 24 million adults with diabetes in sub-Saharan Africa.

EasyBag, a solution for insulin in Africa

Treatment, insulin and equipment for diabetes are often lacking in developing countries, and in countries that have them, the costs for these diabetes supplies generally prove unaffordable for patients because access to subsidized healthcare in Africa is often limited or nonexistent.

If insulin is exposed to extreme temperatures, it is easily damaged and loses its effectiveness. The perfect storage temperature for insulin is between 2 and 8°C and when opened, it can be stored for up to three weeks at a temperature not exceeding 25°C.

In a large majority of sub-Saharan countries, less than 20% of the rural population has access to electricity (16.1% in Kenya, 18.8% in Zambia). There is therefore a lack of continuous and accessible refrigeration methods and it is now customary in rural Africa to bury insulin in the ground to try to keep it at a cooler temperature. However, this inadequate method of conservation is very unstable and can quickly damage insulin.

In a study published in 2009*, 131 patients with type-1 diabetes were tested. 59% of these patients were hyper glycemic, showing poor control of diabetes. Of these patients, 56% maintained their insulin at room temperature. Inadequate storage temperature of insulin is a major reason for poor management of diabetes in developing countries.

MedActiv, a company created by diabetics in France, has developed the EasyBag, an isothermal bag that keeps insulin cool without electricity using gel crystals that cool when soaked in water. This new technology is ideal for countries where electricity is not available for diabetics.

To enable the EasyBag, it must simply be immersed in water for 40 seconds. The crystals in the panels of the EasyBag turn into a gel that stays fresh for between five to seven days based on an evaporation process that will keep the insulin at a temperature between 16 and 25°C (up to an ambient temperature 42°C). To “reload” the EasyBag, it must simply be immersed again in water for 40 seconds.

Over 80% of diabetes deaths occur in countries with low and middle income. In the 34 poorest African countries, the cost for a person with diabetes to manage his disease is twice the average wage. An estimated 6% of all deaths in sub-Saharan Africa in 2010 were probably caused by diabetes.

One of the defining points of healthcare systems in sub-Saharan Africa is that they focus nearly exclusively on the management of acute infections and thus have difficulty in providing the management and long-term treatment needed by patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes. Having access to insulin, syringes and testing equipment is vital, but it is not enough for a diabetic in Africa. A healthcare system with trained staff and adequate facilities is also essential. At the moment, healthcare systems in sub-Saharan Africa suffer from a serious shortage of accessible health facilities for the rural population and patients often have to travel long distances, with prohibitive transport costs to get tested and seek treatment.

The MedActiv EasyBag solution will help these patients to have better management of their diabetes, because it allows them to keep their insulin at an acceptable temperature without any electricity. The EasyBag reflects the corporate values of MedActiv, which are to create products that give patients something that is often denied to them: the freedom to take responsibility for their own health.

* Effect of temperature on the potency and Pharmacological action of insulin, Indian J Med Res 130, August 2009, pp 166-169

About MedActiv: MedActiv develops solutions for the storage and transport of thermo sensitive medications. Millions of people worldwide suffer from diseases that make them virtual prisoners of their medications. MedActiv develops solutions that allow them to travel anywhere safe in the knowledge that their medication is kept at the right temperature.

Source: Open PR.Com – Press Release – 2 Jan 2012