Over 3 million Canadians currently live with type-2 diabetes. It is not only one of the fastest growing chronic diseases, it can also be one of the most expensive. The Canadian Diabetes Association has called the costs associated with the disease an “economic tsunami.”


A recent study in the journal Diabetic Medicine, led by Laura Rosella of the University of Toronto, found that on average, for each Canadian with diabetes, an additional $10,000 strain was being put on the health care system over an eight year period, nearly triple the cost incurred by a Canadian without the disease.


Ten thousand dollars multiplied by 3 million people is a lot of taxpayer money. Billions of dollars each year. “The issue with type-2 diabetes is that so many people have it,” says Rosella. “We're talking about 10 percent of the population. So the costs really add up.”


Currently, the direct costs of diabetes account for roughly 3.5 percent of Canadian public health care spending. Much of that expense is tied up in diagnosis and immediate post-diagnosis testing, but the costs never disappear. Diabetes is incurable, and those with the condition face a lifetime of costs borne by the health care system, by private insurance, and by the individuals themselves. This is a disease which has not only serious implications on the quality of life of those it affects, but also has substantial economic impact on our society as whole.



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Cost Savings Needed To Ensure Equal Access


For those without insurance, the price of medication and blood glucose monitoring devices can present a substantial barrier to effective treatment. And if diabetes is not properly managed early on, the risk of complications that require more costly interventions, including dialysis and lower limb amputations, rises dramatically. For this reason, it is absolutely vital that cost savings be pursued to make effective management accessible to all Canadians with this disease. “We need to find a way to make sure that everyone has access to the treatments that we know work, especially for prevalent conditions like diabetes,” says Rosella. “It's a basic health care need that needs to be addressed.”


The good news is that in the past decade the growth rate of diabetes, while still alarming, has begun to slow. At the same time, advancements in therapeutic technology have been helping to bring down the overall price of treatment. Much more needs to be done however, in terms of both reducing the price of treatments and ensuring that a wider array of treatments are covered by both public and private insurers.


More than 20 people are diagnosed with type-2 diabetes every hour. In 1980, just 30 million people worldwide were living with the disease. By 2030 that number is expected to have increased to 400 million. When a disease is this prevalent, we owe it to ourselves as a nation to bring everything we have to bear in the fight to keep Canadians living with the disease both healthy and financially secure.