Costs and Consequences of Not Treating Diabetes

Holly Campbell
Holly Campbell May 1, 2015


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Costs and Consequences is a blog series examining the health care burden of not treating diseases. Too often, the rhetoric focuses solely on the cost of medicines and disregards the adverse societal and economic impacts of not treating diseases. Stay tuned for the next post in the series and be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Diabetes is a leading cause of death in the United States and its prevalence is rising at an alarming rate. Every 30 seconds a new diabetes case is diagnosed, with almost 2 million Americans newly diagnosed each year. Currently, more than 29 million people – one in 10 American adults – have diabetes. If trends continue as many as one–in-three Americans could face the disease by 2050.

Diabetes is a complex, chronic condition that requires consistent medical care and treatment to help control blood sugar levels. If left untreated, diabetes can lead to devastating complications, such as heart disease, nerve damage, blindness, kidney failure and amputations. And the risk of death for adults with diabetes is 50 percent higher than for adults without diabetes.

The cost of not treating diabetes is detrimental to the patient, and also to society. According to the American Diabetes Association’s report, Economic Costs of Diabetes in the U.S. in 2012, the total estimated cost of diabetes in 2012 was $245 billion – a 41 percent increase since 2007. This includes $176 billion in direct medical costs and $69 billion in reduced productivity, such as increased absenteeism, reduced productivity while at work and lost productivity due to early mortality.  And people with diabetes, on average, have medical costs twice as high as for people without diabetes.tn_CostConsequences

These costs are unsustainable and underscore the need to control diabetes with a proper treatment plan, including diet, exercise and medications. Adherence to treatment is especially critical as improved adherence to diabetes medications could result in over 1 million fewer emergency room visits and save $8.3 billion annually.

While we have made progress in reducing mortality - death rates for people with diabetes have fallen 40 percent since 1997 - millions of people still do not have their diabetes under control and millions more remain undiagnosed and at risk of worse health complications. With 180 new medicines currently in development for type 1 and type 2 diabetes and diabetes-related conditions, we have the potential to further reduce the burden of diabetes and improve the lives of patients.

Topics: Diabetes, Drug Cost