Kantar Health Blog

Stemming the costs of diabetes

by Michael Fronstin | Nov 14, 2012
Michael Fronstin

The diabetes epidemic has dominated the news recently in both the mainstream and pharma industry media. The aging population, changing diets, sedentary lifestyles and many other unhealthy choices are being blamed for the increased prevalence of type 2 diabetes (T2D). The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 347 million people worldwide have diabetes.

T2D can cause serious complications related to the cardiovascular system, eyes, kidneys and nerves. According to the WHO, 50% of people with diabetes die of cardiovascular disease; 10-20% of people with diabetes die of kidney failure; and 2% become blind, while another 10% develop severe visual impairment due to diabetic retinopathy. Despite serious diabetes-related complications, many patients continue to engage in risky behaviors. According to the 2011 National Health and Wellness Survey (NHWS), 17% of U.S. patients with T2D still smoke and 90% are overweight or obese (compared with 63% of non-diabetics).

An important secondary impact of T2D is a higher utilization of healthcare resource. NHWS data show that T2D results in a significantly higher level of doctor and emergency room visits and hospitalizations.  In the U.S., EU5 and Brazil, diabetics are hospitalized twice as often as non-diabetics. In Japan diabetics are hospitalized three times as often, and in China an astonishing 3.5 times as often as non-diabetics. In all geographies evaluated, except China, nearly 100% of diabetics have visited a healthcare provider at least once in the past six months.

The effects of T2D extend beyond physical complications. T2D also has an impact on workplace productivity as T2D patients exhibit a higher level of work productivity loss as measured by absenteeism, presenteeism and overall work productivity. For example, in EU5 the mean work productivity loss reported among those with T2D is 30%, compared with 19% among non-diabetics.

You might be thinking, “We all know diabetes causes a lot of problems. What’s your point?”

The International Diabetes Federation’s theme for this year’s World Diabetes Day is, “Protect our future.” And in the future the number of people with diabetes will significantly increase. The IDF predicts 40 million more diabetics in China in 2030 than today. NHWS identified the number of pre-diabetic or at-risk patients range from the size of the current diabetic population (in the U.S. and EU5) to more than three times the current population in Brazil.

Slowing the growth of diabetes is crucial to individuals and the healthcare system. Many treatments are available, but patients remain uncontrolled or experience hypoglycemia. While new treatments are being studied, more patient education is needed. Early detection by physicians and convincing patients to make lifestyle changes to prevent disease progression are critical to stemming this costly epidemic.

To see how the at-risk population of diabetes differs around the world and the steps they’re taking to lower their risk factors, download our infographic, “Protect Our Future: Prevent Type 2 Diabetes.”

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