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7 Sep, 2007 01:56

Diabetes rising in Russia

Two and a half million people in Russia have diabetes, and experts say the figure could be up to 50% higher with some people not registering their illness and others simply not knowing they are sufferers.

Diabetes is a serious disease that's been around for centuries, but doctors have learnt how to deal with it. But in Russia it's on the increase, with many people ignoring it altogether.

Diabetes is a serious disease which is increasing also across the world.

“In Moscow 220, 000 people are registered with diabetes of both type one and two in the capital. 15, 000 people have diabetes type one,” Mikhail Antsiferov, Director of the Moscow Endocrinology Centre, informed.

Liza Borchik is one of those people. She was diagnosed with diabetes when she was 12, now at 17 she knows how to deal with it and lives a full and active life. This includes playing the guitar, which she does despite the pain left from injections of her daily glucose tests.

But living with diabetes in Russia hasn’t always been easy. When Liza was first diagnosed she moved to Paris for five months to get health advice she says she wasn’t getting here.

“In Moscow doctors are more like salesmen. They see you very fast just like in a pharmacy and then they invite the next person waiting in line, and you are just left alone with your disease,” Liza complained.

Head of the State Endocrinology Centre, Professor Galina Melnichenko, admits there are problems with the healthcare system. She would like to see more training given to doctors about diabetes but says there has been improvement over the last few years.

“Now our patients receive all the insulin existing in the world, they have a system to measure blood glucose, our patients can receive everything, all the medicines for diabetes,” Galina Melnichenko says.

Liza Borchik is one of the lucky ones. She can afford the $US 45,000 fee for her year’s supply of insulin and so she does not need to register to get it free on prescription.

For other diabetics it is a different story.

Everyone in Russia is entitled to receive drugs and equipment free of charge, but getting a prescription can take weeks and involve lots of paper work. But for diabetics this is time well spent, because getting the right drugs is crucial.

And getting the right medical attention is no less important.

Diabetes can have serious health consequences including foot amputations, blindness and kidney damage, but if patients receive the right care and treatment, these sorts of complications can be prevented.

National and regional programmes in Russia aim to make sure this happens.

As well as medical care, clinics teach patients how to cope with diabetes so they can live a normal and healthy life.