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DR. GIFFORD JONES: The seizure of opportunity brings success

Obesity is responsible for 95 per cent of Type 2 diabetes.
Obesity is responsible for 95 per cent of Type 2 diabetes.

A Spanish proverb states, “He loses all who loses the right moment.”

I had a similar thought a few weeks ago when I wrote that, “a brain that’s full of knowledge has no room left to dream.”

What’s behind these philosophical mutterings? I was annoyed that Canada had lost a major medical opportunity. Now, the insulin mouth rinse that should have been a Canadian first is a Philippine economic coup. It’s a loss for Canada. But the Philippines had the vision to see that an oral insulin product offers immense medical and financial benefits.

told readers that Eastgate Biotech Corp, using nanotechnology, had developed an oral insulin pill to treat Type 2 diabetes. This is a monumental finding since it does away with needle injections. Moreover, it’s a discovery that had eluded researchers for years. Since I believed in its immense value to mankind, I wanted to follow the progress of Eastgate and its product. I even bought shares in the company.

But Eastgate required about $10 million to complete clinical trials demanded by Health Canada. Initially, I believed this would not be a major problem. After all, it was Sir Frederick Banting at the University of Toronto who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1923 for his discovery of insulin.

So, I assumed these funds would become quickly available. But, it soon became apparent that neither the University of Toronto nor a pharmaceutical company, nor a wealthy entrepreneur, nor the Canadian government, was interested in supporting this historical and humanitarian finding. I believe this will prove to be an unfortunate error.

Recently, Eastgate announced it had opened an office in the Philippines. It had also formed an association with Bukidnon Pharmaceutical to finance, manufacture and distribute an insulin mouth rinse in that country where there is an epidemic of Type 2 diabetes.

What makes this particularly exciting is that Philippine government officials have been involved in these negotiations. It’s apparent they’re aware of the personal and societal cost of diabetes to their health-care system. By managing blood sugar levels they can help to decrease the devastating and expensive complications of diabetes.

I also suspect that the Philippines is just the starting point for distribution of the insulin mouth rinse to other Asian countries and that eventually the oral product will be available in Canada and the U.S.

It still boggles my mind that the Canadian government can spend hundreds of millions of dollars combating the opioid epidemic but has zero funds for an oral insulin product. Canadians should take note that recently a Texas company bought Canada’s largest chain of methadone addiction clinics as they’ve become very profitable. Last year 44,432 people in Ontario, just one Canadian province, received methadone treatment paid for by you. I repeat – 44,432!

But there is also an epidemic of Type 2 diabetes in North America. It’s alarming that one in 14 people has Type 2 diabetes, and for those over age 65 one in four has this disease. This means a new case of diabetes is diagnosed every 45 seconds. It also means that diabetes patients face greater risk of blindness, kidney failure and amputation of legs.

Philippine authorities realize that these costly personal and societal disasters are less likely to happen when blood sugar levels are better controlled and that patients will be more willing to monitor blood sugar using an oral product rather than needle injections. It’s a huge step in the right direction.

History will show how unfortunate it was that no one in Canada could dream hard enough to ensure that clinical trials could be done in this country. The seizure of opportunity brings success.

But the results of what is happening in the Philippines will soon spread to this part of the world as the treatment of Type 2 diabetes has become a worldwide problem. In fact, this epidemic should be labelled a “lifestyle disease” since 90 per cent of those with Type 2 diabetes are obese.

Type 2 diabetes is the classic example of the Gifford-Jones Law that says one medical problem leads to another and another.

And remember, I am not your doctor or financial adviser.

Dr. W. Gifford-Jones is a syndicated columnist whose medical column appears in The Guardian every Tuesday. Check out his website, www.docgiff.com, which provides easy access to past columns and medical tips. For comments, readers are invited to email him at info@docgiff.com. He can also be found on Twitter @GiffordJonesMD.

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