How is COVID-19 shaping up the future healthcare spending?

Diabetes

COVID-19 is still an unresolved mystery for the world. People with co-morbidities, such as diabetes, are at a greater risk—a known fact. But, can COVID-19 trigger diabetes? Well, nothing conclusive has been discovered yet, although a number of studies are now finding a link.  

Endocrinologists have observed that patients admitted for severe COVID-19 often have higher than the normal blood sugar levels at the time of hospital admission.

The researchers are still divided on whether COVID-19 has any diabetogenic effect on the survivors, beyond the stress reaction associated with acute health events.

Francesco Rubino, chairperson of metabolic and bariatric surgery at King’s College London, has termed the relationship between COVID-19 and diabetes “very complex”.  “We have a risk of seeing a clash of two pandemics”, cautioned Francesco Rubino. In plain English, he meant we might see a “pandemic of diabetes” amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

Ziyad Al-Aly claimed that COVID-19 survivors run a 39% higher risk of developing diabetes within six months of getting infected by coronavirus. He is the director of the Clinical Epidemiology Center and the Chief of Research and Education Service at Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System.

As reported by The Guardian, 4.9% of close to 50,000 COVID-19 survivors (who were tracked for the study), were diagnosed with diabetes within 5 months from getting discharged from the hospital.

But isn’t that still below 6%, which is the average percentage of the diabetic population in the UK?

Kathleen Wyne, an endocrinologist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, stated that she didn’t find any data showing any direct impact of the virus on pancreatic beta-cells producing insulin.

That said, steroids used in the treatment of COVID-19 and cytokine storms causing inflammation amongst COVID-19 patients can induce hyperglycemia in people who aren’t known to be diabetic/prediabetic, she reckoned. In her lingo, such acute stressors are like a “treadmill test for the pancreas,” and the pancreas fails.

Meanwhile the sales of Biocon’s itolizumab tripled so far in India during the second-wave of COVID-19 as compared to that in the first wave. Itolizumab is used to treat cytokine storms.

While we should leave it to the experts and researchers to draw conclusions, looking at some more facts could give a completely new spin to the topic of linkages between COVID-19 and diabetes.

Diabetes

(Source: International Diabetes Foundation, WHO, Centres for Disease control and prevention)

In the world of connected devices, diseases and impairments too appear to be well-connected. Economic costs of fighting healthcare crises have been enormous.

The coronavirus has served a clarion call to governments across the globe and people at large, as to how medical emergencies can bring nations and their systems down on their knees. Chronic diseases can no more be treated just like lifestyle diseases that can be looked after by medicines.

In future, healthcare spending will not only go towards expanding the healthcare infrastructure and producing generic versions of off-patent products but a significant part of it would be (rather should be) allocated to Preventive healthcare. Health insurance might help us in crises but investments in preventive healthcare would help in delaying the process of reaching crises situations. And this includes lifestyle changes, timely diagnosis and real-time disease management amongst many other things.

As remains the question of drugs and therapies, innovation and affordability are likely to go hand-in-hand.

Editor’s note

The recent rally in the pharmaceutical sector has offered a good runway to many pharma stocks—irrespective of their product mix and quality of operations.

Going forward, the ones having a strong product pipeline, ability to produce complex drugs at affordable costs and catering to the key therapeutic areas are likely to emerge as the potential winners. 

Biocon is one of India’s leading biopharmaceutical companies and is a part of Nifty Next 50 Index. The company operates through four business verticals—generics, biosimilars, R&D and novel biologics. Its key therapeutic areas include diabetes, oncology and immunology, amongst others.

Despite having a strong presence in the biosimilars market, so far the company hasn’t been able to translate the macro-opportunity into the bottom line of the company. Lately, the management has acknowledged its shortcomings and re-devised its future growth strategies.

At present, 31% of the company’s revenue comes from the generics and 39% from the biosimilars business. The company has been aiming to grow its biosimilars business 2.5 times over the next few years. Biocon has a robust pipeline of 28 complex biosimilars products addressing the crucial therapeutic areas. 

Biocon: report card…

(Source ACE Equity)

In the generics space, it holds a strong position in the global market through its statin and immunosuppressant portfolio. The growth plans for the generics are equally aggressive too. Its new immunosuppressant capacities will come on stream in the calendar year 2022. However, the peptide API facility may take another two years.

The company has been expecting a strong uptick in its business from FY23 onwards. Investing in an innovation-driven company can test your patience, but you can’t make moola without taking risks and having patience.

You may also like to read: 7-steps to take control of your finances post pandemic

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We do not have any financial interest of any nature in the company. We do not individually or collectively hold 1% or more of the securities of the company. We do not have any other material conflict of interest in the company. We do not act as a market maker in securities of the company. We do not have any directorships or other material relationships with the company. We do not have any personal interests in the securities of the company. We do not have any past significant relationships with the company such as Investment Banking or other advisory assignments or intermediary relationships. We are not responsible for the risk associated with the investment/disinvestment decision made on the basis of this blog article.

 

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