You are here

Report: Economic Burden of Diabetes Up 48% Over 5 Years

‘The crisis is worsening,’ editorial writers say

The economic burden of diabetes in the U.S. continues to climb, exceeding more than $322 billion in excess medical costs and lost productivity in 2012, or more than $1,000 for every American, according to a study scheduled for publication in the December 2014 issue of Diabetes Care. The article includes a state-by-state breakdown of the prevalence and costs associated with diabetes.

The study, which follows a similar report published in 2010 and expands on data released last year, shows a 48% overall jump in direct and indirect costs associated with diabetes over just 5 years. The estimates include the financial impact from those diagnosed with diabetes (21 million people) as well from the undiagnosed (8.1 million people), those with gestational diabetes (approximately 222,000 people), and adults with prediabetes (86 million people), a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes.

The data break down into $244 billion in excess medical costs (including physician’s office and hospital visits, prescription drugs, and costly health conditions, such as hypertension and renal complications) and $78 billion in reduced productivity.

The researchers estimate that 27 percentage points of the 41% increase in medical costs stems from the growing number of people being diagnosed with diabetes in America, and that 14 percentage points of that rise comes from growth in the average cost per case of diabetes. However, an editorial in the same issue of Diabetes Care calls the study “alarming” in that it shows a dramatic rise in costs for those with prediabetes and undiagnosed diabetes. Building on their work from 2007, the researchers found that over 5 years, the cost of prediabetes increased 74% (to $44 billion), whereas the cost of undiagnosed diabetes rose 82% (to $33 billion).

“These statistics underscore the importance of finding ways to reduce the burden of prediabetes and diabetes through better prevention and treatment,” said lead investigator Timothy M. Dall. “The costs, in both financial and quality-of-life terms, are exceptionally high and in many cases could be preventable.”

“The concern remains that these are conditions for which, as a medical community, we may not have a heightened awareness or have sufficient plans to address,” the editorial writers note.

The editorial writers conclude that the new study bolsters the need for intervention during the prediabetes stage, noting that there are both clinical and financial reasons to identify people with prediabetes. Previous studies, notably the landmark Diabetes Prevention Program, have shown that making lifestyle changes that include losing weight, increasing physical activity, and changing one’s diet can greatly reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes.

“We believe that identifying prediabetes is worthwhile from both a clinical and a public health standpoint,” they write. “The need to identify those with undiagnosed diabetes is even more pressing,” they noted, because untreated diabetes can lead to numerous costly health complications, such as heart and kidney disease, nerve damage and vision problems.

“The crisis is worsening,” the editorial concludes. “The time to act is now. These data clearly should signal a call for action.”

The study also includes state-by-state data on diabetes prevalence and economic burden. Across the nation, the study found that the prevalence of diagnosed and gestational diabetes was highest in several southern states (Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, and Mississippi) as well as in West Virginia, and lowest in the mountain and western states (Alaska, Colorado, Montana, and Utah) as well as in Minnesota and Vermont. Geographic variations in the economic burden reflected variations in prevalence, earnings, and the cost of medical care.

Source: American Diabetes Association; November 20, 2014.

Recent Headlines

Despite older, sicker patients, mortality rate fell by a third in 10 years
Study finds fewer than half of trials followed the law
WHO to meet tomorrow to decide on international public heath emergency declaration
Study of posted prices finds wild variations and missing data
Potential contamination could lead to supply chain disruptions
Declining lung cancer mortality helped fuel the progress
Kinase inhibitor targets tumors with a PDGFRA exon 18 mutation
Delayed surgery reduces benefits; premature surgery raises risks
Mortality nearly doubled when patients stopped using their drugs