This is not the answer

This is not the answer

Yesterday the city of Brotherly Love and host of the upcoming Democratic Convention became the first major US city to pass a special tax on soft drinks. The Philadelphia City Council approved a tax of 1.5 cents an ounce on sugary beverages, a tax which if fully passed onto the consumer will increase the cost by 25% to 30%.  There are many in the diabetes community that support taxes like this, they see it as way to reduce the epidemic growth of diabetes. As if there is a direct link between Coke, Pepsi and Mountain Dew consumption and diabetes.

They point to taxes on cigarettes or alcohol as examples of how these taxes have helped people kick the habit or drink in moderation. Yet there are still millions who smoke and drink, millions who pay the tax. We suspect the same will happen in Philly and we also suspect given how most major cities are struggling financially and running out of things to tax that these sugar taxes will also spread. The sad part is these sugar taxes will do little to halt the dramatic growth rate of diabetes.

Now you can be sure that five or ten years from today, perhaps sooner, there will be studies pointing to the impact of these taxes on the growth rate of diabetes. Yes, academia will do what they are good at pontificate over data that doesn’t prove a damn thing. But the truly sad thing here is this tax is just a continuation of a very distributing trend in diabetes, that patients with diabetes are victims that poor management of diabetes is not their fault and they bear no responsibilities for their actions.

It should come as no surprise that the same people who support these sugar taxes are the same people who believe the insulin companies are gouging patients with diabetes, that it is their fault that insulin costs so much. They are the same people who complained that test strips cost too much, along comes competitive bidding and they now complain Medicare patients are being harmed because these cheap strips aren’t accurate. Yep and this is the crowd who rips Medtronic (NYSE: MDT) a new one for doing an exclusive deal, says this deal will limit patient choice, stifle innovation when the facts, yes those pesky facts, clearly tell a different story.

Diabetic Investor can’t pin point when this belief that patients with diabetes are helpless victims started but there is no question it’s started.

Now before we go any further let’s be clear here we are not saying practicing good diabetes management day in and day out is always easy, it’s not. Nor are we claiming that better devices and better drugs would not make this task easier, they will. Let’s also be clear that diabetes is not a one size fits all disease and management for some is much more difficult than management for others. Finally, we will not make the foolish claim that cost does not impact management, it does, to what extent is the real question.

Yet the fact remains, yes those pesky facts again, that millions of patients manage their diabetes very well day in and day out. That they have taken ownership, responsibility or whatever you want to call it of their diabetes. They don’t see themselves as victims they see themselves as a person with a chronic yet manageable disease. They know if they fail to manage their diabetes it can lead to devastating complications.

Yes, we know this just bugs the crap out of the diabetes as victim crowd but diabetes is NOT cancer. Diabetes is serious chronic disease but is manageable IF the patient is willing to make the effort.  A patient with diabetes has options, numerous options actually IF they are willing to make an effort. Managed properly these patients with diabetes can live very long, very productive lives.

Their bodies are not being poisoned by chemotherapy. Their hair isn’t falling out because of radiation. They don’t look into the mirror and wonder just how much time they have. Even those who have fought cancer and won, worry about it coming back. The simple fact is cancer patients don’t have many positive choices, while patients with diabetes have many options IF they chose to do so.

Patients with diabetes aren’t victims and treating them as such ignores those pesky facts that diabetes is manageable. It also gives patients an excuse not to manage their diabetes. This is the worst aspect of this victim mentality for a percentage of the patient population will use it as a reason not to manage their diabetes. The fact is taxes like the sugar tax will do nothing to help patients with diabetes and a strong argument can be made that it will hurt them more than helping.

Please let’s call these sugar taxes what they really are, just one more attempt by cities to make up for poor financial decisions of the past. You can dress up these taxes all you want, you can pontificate that this will stem the tide that this is helping millions of people with diabetes and millions more with “pre-diabetes”. But at the end of the day this like putting lipstick on a pig.