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Analysis: More Diabetes Awareness Needed
Posted: Thursday, April 29, 2004
The healthcare industry still must educate people more about risk factors for the disease and the importance of testing. Editor's note: take the Defeat Diabetes ® Screening Test. More than 1.8 million Diabetes Screening Tests have been distributed to over 3800 schools in all 50 states.
The battle for control of diabetes is being waged on a number of fronts, by the federal government, advocacy groups and healthcare providers and organizations.
Dr. Richard Dolinar, a Phoenix endocrinologist, told reporters Wednesday as many as 50 million Americans could have pre-diabetes -- with abnormal blood sugar levels that are not high enough to indicate a full-blown affliction. These are the people the healthcare system needs to reach and educate about lifestyle changes in diet and exercise that can prevent diabetes from striking down the road.
"We have a major epidemic that we're facing," Dolinar said during a teleconference on a diabetes treatment study released by PharMetric Inc.
The American College of Physicians this week recommended people who have type 2 diabetes and have heart disease or are at risk for heart disease take cholesterol-lowering statin medications -- even if their cholesterol levels are not high. The American Diabetes Association estimates 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes will develop or die of complications from heart disease, and 65 percent of deaths among people with diabetes are due to heart disease and stroke.
He said education to reach the undiagnosed and those at risk is essential as well as a "recognition of our myopic vision," so that Americans realize "the cost of the disease is so much more than the cost of treatment."
Part of the fear people have about knowing they might have diabetes is tied up with the fear and dread of a lifetime of treatment, because there is no cure. The PharMetric study found 30 percent of insured diabetic patients do not obtain the treatment they need.
People think about sticking themselves with needles several times a day to test their blood sugar, restrictive diets and regimens, and possible daily insulin shots and simply put off seeing their physician or getting treatment if they are feeling good.
Until just a few years ago there only a few medications for diabetes existed. But four new classes of oral medications and several new types of insulin recently went on the market. There are more than 40 new potential diabetes drugs in the development pipeline.
Dan Ollendorf, a PharMetric researcher, said his study shows patients who took prescription medications for their diabetes had reduced healthcare costs over a one-year period, compared to diabetics who were not treated. Patients taking medications had fewer hospital stays and lower lab costs -- even the one-fifth of patients who had a difficult time controlling glucose levels.
An earlier PharMetric study of more than 46,000 diabetic patients treated with medication over two years found overall healthcare costs decreased by about 20 percent.
PharMetric, in Watertown, Mass., provides market data to the pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device and health insurance industry sectors using non-identifiable patient data from 70 managed-care organizations.
Meanwhile, the federal government is working on at least two fronts to educate people about diabetes.
The Department of Health and Human Services last November began the "Diabetes Detection Initiative: Finding the Undiagnosed." The goal is to identify people with undiagnosed diabetes and refer them for testing and treatment.
The new Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 also contains a structure to set up disease-management programs to help seniors manage chronic illness, including diabetes. The Voluntary Chronic Care Improvement Program will help seniors with treatment and lifestyle changes needed to keep their glucose levels under control.
HHS said about 18 percent of Medicare beneficiaries have diabetes -- but they account for 32 percent of the $290 billion in annual Medicare spending.
An American Diabetes Association survey found seven in 10 Americans were not aware of their blood glucose level. The group is working through Rite Aid pharmacies to help raise awareness by providing a pencil-and-paper, diabetes-risk test that covers risk factors, such as being overweight, sedentary, over age 45 and having a history of the disease in the family.
"We can treat these patients, we can get these sugars down, we can make a difference," Dolinar said.
Source: Diabetes In Control.com
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