Type 2 Diabetes: Lifetime Medical Costs

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Xiaohui Zhuo PhD
Health economist
Division of Diabetes Translation
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?

First, someone diagnosed with type 2 diabetes may pay an average of about $85,500 treating the disease over his or her lifetime. Lifetime cost is higher for women, and for patients who developed the disease earlier in life.

Second, treating diabetic complications account for more than half of lifetime costs, and a majority of which is attributed by damage to large blood vessels, which can lead to coronary heart disease and stroke.

MedicalResearch.com: Were any of the findings unexpected?

Answer: Diabetes is a well-known costly disease. The substantial lifetime medical cost found in the article therefore is not a big surprise. However, it is important to document the lifetime cost for at least two reasons:

First, to better understand the financial return of type 2 diabetes prevention and control, i.e., how much medical costs will potentially be saved from preventing one case of type 2 diabetes;

Second, for healthcare policy makers, to get a better sense of the long-term impact of new onset of diabetes on the healthcare budget. This has become increasingly important given the rapid increase of the number of the incident cases in the U.S. and worldwide.

MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Answer: There are two take-home messages from our study:

First, the substantial lifetime cost is a clear indication that, anything that can prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes could lead to a sizeable reduction in healthcare costs in the future.

Second, our study also highlights the importance of glycemic control to prevent diabetic complications among persons who already have type 2 diabetes.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Answer: Our study only examines the medical cost of treating diabetes. However, this is only a part of the picture. Diabetic patients also spend more because they tend to have more other medical conditions and related spending. Therefore, future study to compare persons with diabetes and persons without is warranted to provide a whole picture of the lifetime economic burden of the disease.


Lifetime Direct Medical Costs of Treating Type 2 Diabetes and Diabetic Complications
Xiaohui Zhuo, Ping Zhang, Thomas J. Hoerger

American Journal of Preventive Medicine – September 2013 (Vol. 45, Issue 3, Pages 253-261, DOI: 10.1016/j.amepre.2013.04.017)