Region/Countries: Mexico, North America Industry: Biosciences / Medical Devices Date: June 2019

Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: This trend is driving demand for medical equipment and injectable insulin.

Mexico is currently undergoing an epidemic of diabetes nearly 40 years in the making. As of 2015, Mexico was ranked sixth in the world in terms of the number of people with diabetes—even more alarming since Mexico is the world’s 11th most populous country. Since 1980, Mexico’s diabetes rates have registered exponential growth, increasing by more than 4 times the population growth rate and causing the death of more than 105,000 people by 2016, constituting the second-leading cause of death in Mexico, just behind heart disease.

Estimates of the total diabetic population vary depending on the source, but most estimates place the number of diagnosed patients at 10% of the total adult population—yet all sources agree that the number is even higher, perhaps twice the total number of confirmed diagnosed patients since a large number are living with the disease without being properly diagnosed.

Among the epidemic’s causes, first and foremost obesity and overweight rates in Mexico include an estimated 70% of the total adult population. Combined with other factors such as age (people over age 60 exhibit an even higher diabetes prevalence of 27.4%), poor eating habits and lack of physical exercise, this is a recipe for public health disaster. The largest public health institutions, namely the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS), Social Health Institute for State Workers (ISSSTE) and state-level public health institutions can only serve two-thirds of diabetes patients, leaving one-third to costly private health institutions or with no medical attention at all. The overall cost to public health institutions to treat diabetes was estimated at $78 billion MXN ($4 billion USD) in 2017, but taking into account secondary and indirect costs, this figure escalates to $362 billion MXN ($19 billion USD) per year. Indirect costs are varied and include productivity loses for a decrease in life expectancy (by an average of 10 years) and other medical complications directly related to diabetes, such as retinopathy, nephropathy, neuropathy, diabetic foot, blindness, erectile dysfunction, oral health problems and stroke.

The Mexican government has launched an ambitious and comprehensive program that includes discouraging consumption of sugary drinks and high-calorie foods with low nutritional content, imposing taxes on these products, spreading information that helps the population to enhance their eating habits, banning advertising that promotes junk food from TV and most mass media that targets underage consumers, forcing food manufacturers to comply with new legislation for food labeling that is easy to understand, promoting physical activity, and limiting sponsorship of sporting events for companies manufacturing products with high caloric content and low nutrient content.

But even those actions seem insufficient to curb the spread of diabetes in Mexico. Given this, export opportunities exist for manufacturers of ready-to-use injectable insulin and medical equipment to monitor blood insulin levels, as well as other medical equipment. Mexico’s imports of ready-to-use insulin has grown continuously during the current decade (Germany and the U.S. are major suppliers, with France a distant third), increasing from 299 metric tons in 2012 to 437 metric tons in 2018, while at the same time exports of these products decreased given the rising domestic demand.