The Cost of Treating Diabetics Is Skyrocketing

From the WebMD Archives

Sept. 29, 1999 (Baltimore) -- A large European study of people with type 2 diabetes has revealed that their treatment accounts for an average of 5% of all health care costs in each of the countries where data was collected.

"This study really points out the enormous costs associated with type 2 diabetes, which are only going to increase as the epidemic ... continues. In this country and in Europe we are seeing a huge increase in the number of people with diabetes, clearly associated with an increase in obesity and sedentary lifestyle," says Christopher Saudek, MD, vice president of communications for the American Diabetes Association. Saudek, who was not involved in the study, tells WebMD, "We all need to be concerned with this disease, because it impacts us all, and prevention is still the best strategy."

Massimo Massi-Bendetti, president of the International Diabetes Federation, European region, agrees. "We are facing a potential crisis. ... The key to improving the quality of life of people with type 2 diabetes and to reducing future costs is to address the long-term complications of the disease."

The study, which was presented this week at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes in Brussels, Belgium, indicates that the largest proportion of the costs stems from hospitalizing people suffering from complications of the disease. People who experienced blood vessel complications, which may or may not require hospitalization, also generated a large percentage of the costs of treating the disease. Countries participating in the study included Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and the U.K.

Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90% of all cases of diabetes, according to the study. It usually occurs in older people and develops gradually, over time. For this reason many people are unaware that they have diabetes until some of the complications have begun to develop. "Estimates are that as many as one-third of adults with type 2 diabetes don't know they have it," says Saudek.

It is possible to avoid many of the complications of diabetes by making sure blood sugar is kept within limits as close to normal as possible, says Saudek. "For people with type 2 diabetes, this level of control can sometimes be achieved by diet and exercise alone," he says. "There are also oral medications that can be tried before insulin therapy is necessary."

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