Defeat Diabetes

Your health and your wallet: The true cost of type 2 diabetes

< 1 min read

Living with type 2 diabetes is challenging enough for your health, but it can also be a huge financial strain. Medications, doctor visits and managing complications all add up. 

But what if a more affordable way lightens the load on your wallet and the healthcare system? 

We examine the real cost of type 2 diabetes, the shocking expenses, and an alternative that costs less than one cup of coffee a week.

What it costs to manage type 2 diabetes

For many people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, their doctor will prescribe a blood glucose-lowering medication. At the beginning of their diabetes journey, this expense may be relatively small, but as medication increases, the costs quickly add up.

According to the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, the average annual healthcare cost per person with diabetes is $4,025 if there are no other complications. However, this can increase to as much as $9,645 in people with both micro and macrovascular complications.

How type 2 diabetes hits your wallet

1. Medication: Diabetes medications, including insulin and oral drugs like Metformin, can cost hundreds of dollars each year. Some people spend over $1,000 a year without full medication subsidisation. Newer GLP-1 drugs, like Ozempic, can cost more than $300 per prescription. 

2. Doctor visits: Regular check-ups with doctors and specialists are essential. These appointments cost around $600-$1,000 a year.

3. Supplies: Blood glucose monitors, test strips and other supplies needed for daily management can cost an additional $500-$1,000 a year.

4. Complications: Managing complications of type 2 diabetes like heart disease, nerve damage and kidney problems can be very costly, with hospital treatments for severe complications exceeding $5,000 a year.

Defeat Diabetes medical advisory panellist and ophthalmologist Dr James Muecke, AM,has spoken of the significant cost to the healthcare system of treating eye conditions caused by type 2 diabetes: “Injections alone cost $200 million a year. This is preventable.”

Dr Peter Brukner, Defeat Diabetes founder, recently told the parliamentary inquiry into diabetes of the long list of expensive complications caused by the condition: “Type 2 diabetes is the biggest risk factor for cardiovascular disease. It’s the most common cause of blindness in Australia, with 100,000 hospitalisations; the most common cause of amputations, with more than 5,000 limb removals a year; the most common cause of kidney disease and it’s so closely related to Alzheimer’s disease, that it’s sometimes called ‘type 3 diabetes’.” 

In total, managing type 2 diabetes can easily cost close to $10,000 a year. And that amount doesn’t count lost productivity and reduced quality of life.

But surely, this is covered by the Australian government and our healthcare system, right?

While type 2 diabetes is hitting the hip pocket of millions of Australians, our healthcare system is bulging under the growing weight of type 2 diabetes costs.  It threatens to overwhelm the Australian health system if type 2 diabetes diagnoses  continue to rise.

The total yearly burden on Australia’s healthcare system for people with type 2 diabetes is estimated at $6 billion, which includes healthcare costs, the cost of carers and Commonwealth government subsidies, as well as heart disease, chronic kidney disease and stroke, which the latter three conditions are caused by type 2 diabetes. Medication also takes up a significant chunk, with a massive $952 million spent subsidising drugs, including Metformin. 

Diabetes Australia’s Group CEO, Justine Cain, said the figures highlighted the importance of preventing type 2 diabetes and revealed the financial impact of its complications.

“The Australian health system spends $2.5 billion per annum directly on diabetes,” Ms Cain said.

“On top of this, diabetes costs the health system more than $2 billion per annum, chronic kidney disease, which costs $1.7 billion and stroke, which costs $660 million.”

Or, would you prefer to spend just $2.50 a week?

The impact of type 2 diabetes, both financially and personally, is staggering. Can these numbers be reversed? We believe so, and there’s an ever-growing body of research, both in Australia and internationally, that shows it is possible to put type 2 diabetes into remission—something that doctors are taught is impossible. 

If type 2 diabetes can be prevented or put into remission, the financial strain on Australians - and our healthcare system - will be lessened.

Dr David Unwin, a GP in Southport, UK, has pioneered using low-carbohydrate diets to manage patients with type 2 diabetes. He recently announced that 3 in 4 of his patients have achieved remission. He also showed that adopting a low carb approach reduced medication spending by more than £50,000 (AUD$96,000) in his clinic compared to neighbouring clinics.

“Imagine the savings to the health budget if 50% of those with type 2 diabetes go into remission with a low carbohydrate diet.” Dr Brukner added.

Switching to a low carb lifestyle through programs like Defeat Diabetes can be a much cheaper way to improve blood glucose levels and possibly achieve remission:

1. Less medication: Many people find that a low carb diet helps them control their blood glucose levels better, lowering or eliminating the need for diabetes medications. 4 in 10 Defeat Diabetes members report being able to lower or stop taking medications. Reducing or stopping medication can save hundreds or thousands of dollars each year.

2. Fewer doctor visits: Better blood sugar control means fewer trips to the doctor

3. Lower risk of complications: A low carb diet helps manage weight and improve overall health, which lowers the risk of expensive complications.

4. Long-term benefits: Unlike other diets, low carb is easy to stick to long-term, ensuring continued health benefits and cost savings.

Summary

The cost of managing type 2 diabetes can be overwhelming for both patients and the healthcare system. However, by cutting down on medication needs, reducing doctor visits, and preventing expensive complications, you are saving money for your bank account and lessening the strain on our healthcare system, freeing up resources for other critical needs.

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