US diabetics pay most for drugs, but world’s poorest bear the biggest economic burden

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

US diabetes pay most for drugs
US diabetes pay most for drugs

Related tags Income Health care

Further evidence US diabetics pay more for drugs than sufferers in comparable countries has emerged this month in a study assessing the diseases’ economic impact.

The study​ by researchers at the UK’s University of East Anglia (UEA) looked at data from 109 studies to determine diabetes’ economic impact, factoring in direct costs for doctor visits and drugs and indirect expenses linked to sick days and early retirement.

According to the study US diabetics have the highest costs with the average lifetime expenditure being $283,000 (€267,431).

This is more than in countries like Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Sweden and the Netherlands where per capita ​income is comparable.

Lead researcher Till Seuring told that, although his study focused on diabetes’ global economic impact, “there is evidence from other studies that prices for drugs are particularly high in the US.”

A report in the Lancet​ last year also concluded healthcare costs in the US were higher than comparable countries as a result of drug and treatment prices.

A large part of the differences reported in health expenditure per person between the USA and other high-spending countries can be explained by differences in health sector price levels​” the authors wrote.

Poor hit hardest

Seuring's key finding, however, was that, in global terms, diabetes hits the poor hardest with a higher cost burden for people in low and middle income countries.

Seuring said: “It is a chronic disease that has spread widely in recent decades not only in high-income countries, but also in many populous low and middle-income countries such as India and China.​ The rising prevalence of diabetes in these countries has been fuelled by rapid urbanization, changing eating habits, and increasingly sedentary lifestyles​” he continued, adding that diseases’ economic varies.

In high income countries the burden often affects government or public health insurance budgets while in poorer countries a large part of the burden falls on the person with diabetes and their family due to very limited health insurance coverage​.”


Seuring said: “For both rich and poor countries, the results mean that better prevention and management of diabetes has the potential to not only bring good health but also economic gains.

We would hope that the findings further increase the policy attention being paid to diabetes prevention and management in rich countries and it should in particular make health and economic policymakers in developing countries aware of the economic damage that diabetes can do​.”

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