Five advancements in diabetes treatment to watch
Nearly 86 million Americans have pre-diabetes and another 30 million have diabetes; roughly 1 million individuals are added to these figures each year, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). The overall cost annually to treat pre-diabetes and diabetes in the United States has escalated to $322 billion. In fact, one-third of all Medicare dollars are spent caring for people with diabetefs and overall, 20% of all healthcare dollars are spent caring for people with this disease.
Just like the number of diabetes cases continues to increase, the cost of diabetes treatment and medications is rising. Many people with diabetes have multiple complex comorbidities (e.g., heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity), which also require intensive management. Diabetes patients incur medical expenses that are 2.3 times higher than those without diabetes and their average medical expenditures are about $13,700 per year, of which some $7,900 are attributed directly to diabetes, according to the ADA.
In addition, many of these patients require newer and/or more expensive therapies, such as insulin. “A significant increase in the cost of vital diabetes medications has occurred over the past few decades, particularly with insulin therapy,” says Kevin M. Pantalone, DO, staff endocrinologist and director of clinical research, Department of Endocrinology, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio. “This has caused significant difficulty in getting patients the medications they need, especially those who are on a fixed income and Medicare patients who lose drug coverage when they hit their insurance coverage gap (i.e., the ‘donut hole’).”
Depending on their type of insurance coverage—such as those with high-deductible plans—many patients with diabetes cannot afford some of the newer therapies that may provide numerous benefits over older medications such as sulfonylureas, Pantalone continues. Newer medications (dipeptidyl peptidase 4 [DPP-4] inhibitors, glucagon-like peptide 1 receptor agonists [GLP-1RA], and sodium-glucose co-transporter 2 [SGLT-2] inhibitors) are not associated with an increased risk of hypoglycemia (low sugar levels) and are either associated with weight loss or are weight neutral.
The healthcare industry continues to focus efforts on treatments that work better, and ideally are less expensive and less invasive for patients.