Merck, a leading pharmaceutical and technology company, has launched the Diabetes Online Risk Assessment (DORA) programme, a nationwide initiative that supports diabetes patients through screening, diagnosis and treatment, as well as ongoing disease management.

The DORA programme is the first of its kind on the continent and was launched in response to the growing number of patients diagnosed in the late stages of the disease.

The programme will cover 12 African countries, including South Africa. It has already been introduced in Kenya, Ethiopia and Ghana and will be launched this year in Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, Botswana, Tanzania, Uganda, Angola and Mozambique.

Recent research conducted on diabetes estimated that there were 22 million cases of diabetes in Africa in 2013, a figure expected to climb 110% by 2035. Africa’s mortality rate as a result of diabetes and related complications ranks highest in the world, and with 62% of diabetes patients remaining undiagnosed, sufferers are more susceptible to permanent tissue damage as well as a deterioration in quality of life.

“This is a challenge to all African economies, as Governments (and as is the case in SA, medical aid schemes) foot the bill for diabetes and its related costs. Late diagnosis can result in hospitalisation, require multiple treatments for consequential health problems, such as blindness or kidney failure, not to mention the economic cost of being unable to work,” said Merck’s Regional Director CMC & GenMed, South East Africa, Sandra Lambert.

“The reality is that in many parts of Africa there is no national intervention (as a single initiative) that tackles diabetes from risk assessment to living with the disease. This programme is meant to support countries in filling that gap between screening, diagnosis, treatment and management of diabetes. It leverages mobile technology and local partnerships to drive a message of early detection,” continued Lambert.

The DORA programme commences with a free Online Risk Assessment service where individuals answer a web-based questionnaire to determine the patient’s risk of developing diabetes. Anyone with access to the internet or a smart device can take the questionnaire.

Based on their answers, the platform gives each individual a rating from low risk to high risk. Moderate and high-risk patients are provided with a voucher for a free blood-glucose test, redeemable at pharmacies nationwide registered with the programme.

Where the patient’s blood test indicates diabetes, they will be given a ‘diabetes starter pack’ to help manage the disease at home. The pack includes ACCUCHEK glucometers (provided by Roche), DIABION diabetic multi-vitamins, diabetes patient information, including a GI food guide, as well as the free diabetes management app, MyDiabetes.

Merck’s DORA initiative is driven through pharmacies nationwide and Merck calls on all pharmacies (corporate and independent) to register with the DORA programme. The Merck DORA programme is currently available through all Pick n Pay pharmacies in South Africa. The Merck DORA programme is available to all pharmacies and those that wish to register can consult their local Merck representative or register through the Merck DORA website.

Merck will also be working closely with the Centre for Diabetes and Endocrinology (CDE), a South African organisation specialising in diabetes counselling and management.

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