NEW DELHI: Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana on Sunday said it is essential that the State provides support and subsidy for diabetic care as the human cost is "immense" and it is an "expensive disease".
Terming diabetes a lifelong disease and an enemy of the poor, the CJI said it is imperative to conduct India-specific studies targeting the local population, which will help develop appropriate treatment protocols.
He said the government needs to train and introduce more healthcare professionals to deal with the disease.
Speaking at the "Ahuja Bajaj Symposium on Diabetes", CJI Ramana said COVID-19 has already exposed the fragility of our "overburdened healthcare system" and the need of the hour is to innovate and develop modern drugs to find a cure for diabetes.
"The human cost is immense. The economic cost to the nation is immeasurable. Therefore, it is essential that the State provides support and subsidy for diabetic care. The government also needs to train and introduce more healthcare professionals to deal with this problem," he said.
The CJI said the medical profession is widely regarded as the most noble one and "Vaidyo Narayano Hari" (a doctor should be considered as a form of Lord Narayana) is the most apt way to describe doctors and medical professionals.
"The health of the nation and its citizens is paramount and naturally, is a precondition to achieving the developmental aspirations we have set for ourselves," he said.
The CJI said he was elated when Indian scientists and researchers came up with a COVID-19 vaccine within a few months of the outbreak of the pandemic.
However, "we are nowhere near finding a permanent cure for diabetes, which is an ancient disease", CJI Ramana said.
"My only wish is that a cure is found. For this, scientists and researchers have to pay full attention. The pivotal role played by doctors in spreading awareness about the disease and its control is praiseworthy," he added.
The CJI said insulin and the associated healthcare products for diabetes are highly unaffordable for the vast majority of the population and in this context, free walk-in tests assume great significance.
"This disease is an enemy of the poor man. It is an expensive disease, which is a recurring financial burden for the lifetime of the patient," he said.
Stressing the need for India-specific studies on diabetes, the CJI said though abundant literature is available on this issue, unfortunately, most of it is based on western studies.
He said according to studies by the World Health Organization (WHO), of the total expenditure incurred in connection with diabetes, nearly 65 per cent is on treatment and medicines, while the remaining 35 per cent is the social cost as per global estimates.
The CJI said doctors and researchers have aptly described diabetes as an "opportunistic killer" as it is a product of modern and sedentary lifestyle.
"The primary myth attached to this disease is that it is a rich man's disease. In the last two decades, a paradigm shift has been seen with respect to the number of affected persons from urban to rural areas," he said, adding that diabetes is a lifelong and a "very depressing disease", which has no cure.
"It can be said that it is as old as human civilisation. It has actually been a silent epidemic since ages. It took the Covid pandemic to show the deadly impact of diabetes, as it was one of the main comorbidities which claimed millions of lives across the globe," CJI Ramana said.
He said due to a lack of access to affordable healthcare and awareness, most of the cases go undetected for the longest amount of time.
"But the reality is that this disease affects people across all classes and age groups. One aspect which needs to be highlighted is that apart from the much publicised reasons of obesity and a lack of physical activity, stress is one of the major triggers of diabetes," he said.
The CJI said stress management, discipline in diet and following a fitness regime are the most useful tools to defeat the disease and awareness about its risk factors, regular check-ups and screening are also important.
"Unfortunately, we are still unable to standardise permissible blood sugar levels. There is a lot of confusion due to different standards applied in different countries during different times.
We must at least try to standardise the parameters within our country," he said.
The CJI paid tributes to Padma Shri awardee late Professor Dr Man Mohan Singh Ahuja and Padma Bhushan recipient late Professor Dr Jabir Singh Bajaj, and said they have contributed immensely to the understanding of diabetes.