Our work in diabetes

According to WHO, 422 million people are diabetic worldwide1. In Belgium, the number of diabetics is estimated at more than 700,000 people, some of whom are not even aware that they have the disease2. Figures that could double in twenty years if we do not adopt a healthier lifestyle. Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for 90% of diabetes cases, can be avoided and largely prevented in this way3. The number of diabetes patients is constantly rising. By 2045, the number of people affected across the world is estimated to have increased to 700 million4.



people in Belgium suffer from diabetes2.

Type 2 diabetes makes up approximately


of all cases of diabetes in Belgium3.

“Diabetes is one of the key therapeutic areas where MSD focusses on. Through our continued investments in research and innovation we strive to improve the lives of people affected by diabetes.”

Roger Bunckens, Business Unit Director Primary Care and Vaccines, MSD Belgium & Luxembourg

Type 2 diabetes3

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition, which develops gradually and is characterised by increased blood sugar levels. It occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the body is unable to use the insulin effectively to convert blood sugar into energy (insulin resistance). In most cases, type 2 diabetes does not develop until later in the patient’s life. At first, it does not cause any detectable symptoms. The condition often goes undetected until complications arise, such as wounds not healing properly or being prone to infection or visual impairments. Type 2 diabetes is affecting an increasing number of younger people who are severely overweight.

People with type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases and death.

Type 2 diabetic patients between the ages of 45 and 64 have an increased risk of heart attacks.5

People with type 2 diabetes are 1.5 – 2 times more likely than the general population to suffer a stroke.6

50% of deaths among people with typ 2 diabetes are the result of a cardiovascular disease.7

Blood sugar control is vital for type 2 diabetes patients.3

When treating type 2 diabetes, it is vitally important to normalise the patient’s increased blood sugar levels. Switching to a healthier diet and exercising more does help, but in many cases it is not enough. These patients also rely on antidiabetics (drugs that reduce blood sugar) and regular visits to their doctor.

We are investigating the development of new treatment options to further improve the quality of life of diabetes patients.

Diabetes is a chronic illness and, as yet, there is still no cure for it. MSD has been actively conducting research into diabetes for years, to enable us to provide patients with new, innovative treatment options.

MSD plays a leading role in the field of diabetes

With an unwavering focus on innovation and substantiated science, we are working on researching, developing and providing drugs and vaccines. In 2007, our long-standing research programme for diabetes enabled us to contribute to one of the most important advances in type 2 diabetes treatment: the introduction of a new class of treatment known as DPP-4* inhibitors. Although diabetes patients have seen their quality of life improve considerably, there are still many who do not reach their target blood sugar levels. Nowadays, there is a new class of antidiabetic substances used to treat type 2 diabetes, known as SGLT-2* inhibitors. This gives patients further options for combination and supplementary therapy for treating type 2 diabetes.

Inhibitors of dipeptidyl peptidase 4 (DPP-4 inhibitors or gliptins)

Sodium-glucose co-transporter-2 (SGLT2) inhibitors


1 World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/health-topics/diabetes, viewed 24.07.2019; 2 World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/diabetes/country-profiles/bel_en.pdf, viewed 24.07.2019; 3 Diabetes Liga, https://www.diabetes.be/wat-type-2-diabetes, viewed 24.07.2019; 4 ABD, https://www.diabete-abd.be/actualites/augmentation-de-la-prevalence-du-diabete-une-action-urgente-est-necessaire.aspx, viewed 24.07.2019; 5 Haffner et al. Mortality from coronary heart disease in subjects with type 2 diabetes and nondiabetic subjects with and without prior myocardial infarction. New England Journal of Medicine. 1998 Jul 23;339(4):229 – 234.; 6 Emerging risk factors collaboration: Diabetes mellitus, fasting blood glucose concentration, and risk of vascular disease: a collaborative meta-analysis of 102 prospective studies. The Lancet. 2010.; 7 World Health Organisation Europe. Data and Statistics. http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/noncommunicable-diseases/diabetes/data-and-tatistics.