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Heart Drug for Free Could Save Lives, Money

Study Shows Society Saves Money if Older Patients With Diabetes Get ACE Inhibitor Drugs for Free
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Rosen and colleagues came up with a computer model that calculated the costs of the blood pressure drugs and the benefits derived from them and the costs of diabetes-related complications among patients over the age of 65.

They concluded that even once the new government co-pay goes into effect, Medicare would save roughly $900 per recipient if ACE inhibitors were given to people with diabetes over the age of 65.

Good for Society

More than 200,000 Americans die each year due to complications from diabetes. The economic cost of diabetes was roughly $132 billion in the U.S. in 2002, or one out of every 10 health care dollars spent, according to the American Diabetes Association.

A person with diabetes has the same risk of having a heart attack and stroke as someone who has already had a heart attack. More than 65% of people with diabetes will die of heart disease or stroke, and they are likely to die younger than people who do not have the disease.

American Diabetes Association president Robert Rizza, MD, tells WebMD that the new research shows that making the right medications available to all people with diabetes will save society money in the long run.

"It is clear that it is cheaper to prevent complications from diabetes than to pay to treat these complications," he says. "It is certainly better for society in terms of human suffering and quality of life for diabetics to have access to these drugs, and this study shows that it is actually cheaper as well."

In addition to ACE inhibitors, many other drugs have been shown to be effective for preventing the life-threatening complications of diabetes. They include medications to control blood sugars, cholesterol-lowering statins, and low-dose aspirin therapy when indicated.

Yet, studies make it clear that far too few people with diabetes are taking the preventive medications that they need.

"Even in the best situations, only a portion of the people who would benefit from these drugs are using them," Rizza says.

While cost is an obstacle, so is education, says Rizza.

"We still have to get the message out so that both health care providers and patients know the impact that these drugs can have," he says.

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