According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – CDC , diabetes is a serious disease that affects 30 million Americans with another 86 million individuals who have elevated glucose levels that are considered pre-diabetic.
Diabetes can progress to become the underlying cause of other costly, disabling and deadly conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, damage to the brain, eyes, kidneys, nerves and result in lower limb amputations.
Diabetes accounts for 4.6 million deaths worldwide and is the 7th leading cause of deaths in the US.
While the cost of treating diabetes and death rates varies considerably among counties, the US leads all other countries with $322 billion annually in direct and indirect costs.
By comparison, the United Kingdom, Japan and Norway have consistently had the lowest death rates due to diabetes over the past five decades and spend only a fraction of what the US does.
Why does the US Spends so Much and Get Such Poor Results?
The answer is simply because pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies and health care providers make billions of dollars with this costly, inefficient and ineffective method of selling, paying and delivering health care in the US.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics – open secrets , the pharmaceutical and health products industry employs more than 3 lobbyists for every member of Congress; spends about $1.2 million lobbying every day Congress is in session. It has also created a career path for loyal Congressional and federal employees to become well-paid private-sector pharma lobbyists.
Hundreds of million dollars are spent each year on lobbying and contributing to House and Senate members to maintain this monopoly and the industry’s control in setting their own drug prices, unlike the rest of the world.
Pharma’s huge profits occur at the great expense of taxpayers, employers and individuals with diabetes who experience the physical, emotional and financial pain and suffering.
Negative Impact of High Health Care Costs on the Economy
Health care spending in the US far exceeds that of other countries. It consumes 50% more of the economy than other countries. And, high health care expenses have a negative effect on patients, employees, employers, city, county, state and federal governments and the taxpayers that pay higher taxes for this efficient and ineffective system.
High health care expenses increase the cost of everything that is made in America and makes them less competitive to imports that don’t include high health care costs. High medical and drug expenses have resulted in decades of double-digit insurance premium increases, wage stagnation, high personal debt, medical bankruptcies, growing government deficits, higher taxes, the collapse of the middle class and a weaker US economy.
Price Waterhouse Cooper – PwC in its Pharma 2020 Vision report concludes: “the current pharmaceutical industry business model is both economically unsustainable and must fundamentally change the way it operates.”
Who Pays for Diabetes
The cost of diabetes treatment in the US continues to rise uncontrollably without any corresponding improvement in outcomes. And taxpayers, employers and patients pay the bills.
A study by the Health Care Cost Institute – HCCI, showed that employer health insurance spending on employees (under 65) with diabetes was $15,000 a year or 300% more than for people without diabetes.
And, Medicare spending is astronomical with over $5.5 billion dollars being spent on just two diabetes drugs- Januvia and Lantus insulin in 2014.
It Doesn’t Have to be this Way
The most troubling fact is it doesn’t have to be this way. Diabetes is not a rare, deadly infectious disease or an aggressive, deadly form of cancer that can’t be treated. And, no other country in the world allows drug companies to charge these exorbinate prices or regulate and require them to disclose more clinical testing and drug cost information.
Diabetes is a relatively easy to diagnose, monitor and treat disease in the majority of cases with appropriate education and interventions. But like other chronic diseases, diabetes has biological, behavioral, educational, care delivery, political and financial dimensions that need to be addressed in order to improve access to affordable and effective treatment.
Opportunities for Taxpayers to Save Billions and Improve Outcomes of Diabetes Treatment
Politicians frequently campaign on the need to cut wasteful government spending. However, after elected, they protect their sacred cash cows that finance them. They place their political and financial self-interest over the needs of millions of Americans with serious and disabling conditions to have access to affordable and effective health care including prescription drugs.
Numerous studies and reports have indicate that the US wastes hundreds of billions of taxpayer, employer and patient dollars that can be saved by:
- Congress insuring that all citizens have access to affordable health services like the rest of the develop world.
The excessive financial burden placed on patients with serious and chronic medical conditions that require costly medications and treatment needs to be significantly reduced in employer-sponsored and ACA Exchange High Deductible plans as well as Medicare plans.
- Medicare, Medicaid, ACA Health Exchange and employer-sponsored plans need to change from paying drug companies and medical providers based on the volume of medications, tests, procedures and visits provided to paying for the value and results of the drugs and treatment provided. To what extent does the treatment cure or manage the progression of the disease and minimize the patients’ pain, suffering and disability?
There is no positive relationship between medical care expenses and success in preventing or managing the debilitating progression of diabetes in the US.
- Congress needs to promote competition and free-trade by reducing drug and devise patents terms and extenders consistent with other countries;
- Congress needs to approve a strict Code of Ethics and Conflict of Interest policies with civil and criminal penalties that prohibits members of Congress and individuals and corporations with a financial interest before the federal government from soliciting or accepting direct or indirect payments, gifts or favors that place private interests over the public good for members of Congress and other federal employees. Investigations and the prosecution of violators should be independent and the responsibility of the US Justice Department and not Congress.
- The FDA should be adequately funded and authorized to impose sanctions against pharmaceutical companies including the revoking of patents when ethical standards, regulations and laws have been violated;
- Congress needs to repeal the section of 2003 law that prohibits Medicare (the largest drug purchaser) from establishing reimbursement rates with pharmaceutical companies like the VA and every other country does;
- Congress needs to eliminating the ban on the importation of lower cost prescription drugs and biologics from Canada and other counties;
- The Federal government needs to become an equity investor and require a financial return including royalties, from all intellectual property and patents developed and sold that have received government-funded basic & applied research, grants and loans.
- Congress needs to ban direct marketing of prescription drugs to consumers and require that pharmaceutical companies fully disclosure the outcome of all clinical trials, drug research and the actual cost of research and development, manufacturing and administration including sales and marketing.
The current $322 billion being spent on diabetes with such poor outcomes is not sustainable. For meaningful change to occur, there needs to be major changes in the pricing, financing and delivery of care.
With the entrenched pharmaceutical industry’s interest to maintaining their influence and control over Congress, change will only come about by confronting members of Congress to determine whether they are for or against actions to lower the price of drugs and medical services, increase transparency and adhere to standards of ethical conduct.
Taxpayers, patients, employers and the US economy are being badly hurt by Congress’s lack of leadership and deference given to the trillion dollar health care and pharmaceutical industries over the interest and needs of American patients, employers and taxpayers.
2016 provides an important opportunity for citizens to learn the positions and records of national candidates for President, the House and Senate and elect candidates who will represent the peoples’ interest over their own political and financial self-interest.
You and your family’s life may depend on it.