Are patients with diabetes victims?

Are patients with diabetes victims?

Type 2 Diabetes Victims Spend $85,500 to Treat The Disease” – This is the headline that appeared on the Science World Report web site. The headline is in reference to a Harvard study that was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. This conclusion of this study:

“Over the lifetime, type 2 diabetes imposes a substantial economic burden on healthcare systems. Effective interventions that prevent or delay type 2 diabetes and diabetic complications might result in substantial long-term savings in healthcare costs.”

Boy those folks from Harvard are certainly smart, nothing like doing a study that tells everyone what we already know. Now we could go on our normal rant about how this is just one more worthless piece of knowledge. How these researchers wasted their time and someone’s money to document something we have known for years. But that would be too easy and really not that much fun.

What got Diabetic Investor going today was the headline and the use of the word victim. While the word is not technically being used incorrectly it does present an interesting debate. For the record Diabetic Investor does believe patients with diabetes are victims.  These are people who have a chronic disease which is manageable. Yes the costs are high and yes a great deal of these costs are due to the complications associated with poorly controlled diabetes, but this does not make patients with diabetes victims.

Diabetic Investor doubts that the many of the educators who attended last week AADE conference would characterize their patients as victims. More than anyone educators understand the burden good diabetes management places on a patient. Yet they are also well aware millions of patients are properly managing their diabetes and not experiencing additional costs due to complications. Put more directly, educators understand that you can lead a horse to water but can’t make them drink. There is a concept called personal responsibility and patients with diabetes do bear this responsibility.

Frankly the last need thing we need is for patients to start seeing themselves as helpless victims, believing that the cost of diabetes management is too heavy to burden.  It should be noted that other studies have concluded that even when a costly item such as test strips are given away for free, patients do not ultimately test more frequently. The same is true with the medications used to treat diabetes many of which are inexpensive generics.  There is no direct correlation between lower drug costs and improved medication adherence.

About the only thing we know for sure that improves diabetes management ultimately improving outcomes is … wait for it … education. There are hundreds of studies that have proved this over and over again. But only in the wacky world of diabetes is the most effective method for improving outcomes given little attention and worse practically no funding. Over and over again it has been proven that educated patients test their glucose regularly and are compliant with their medications. Or put another way education pays off.

Think for a moment what it would mean to a company like Johnson and Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) if just 20% of their installed user base added one more test per day to their testing regimen. This adds up to nearly 700 million additional test strips sold each year- take that competitive bidding. Or think of what it would mean to Sanofi (NYSE:SNY) if patients understood not to skip taking their Lantus and yes this does happen.

Quite frankly a patient with diabetes is a victim only if they let themselves be victimized.  Good diabetes management may not be easy and yes it also carries a cost, but the burden and cost are nothing compared to experiencing the many complications associated with poorly controlled diabetes.  The problem as Diabetic Investor sees it is many of these patients don’t fully understand this and would benefit immensely if the companies in the business of diabetes would give education the attention and funding it deserves. Pretty meter colors are cute and all but they don’t do jack when it comes to helping patients.