Approximately 96 million American adults—more than 1 in 3—have prediabetes. Of those with prediabetes, more than 80% don’t know they have it. Prediabetes increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke (Source: CDC). Almost half of older adults — more than 26 million people 65 and older — have prediabetes. That’s a clear and present danger to our country.
Patients can have prediabetes for years but have no apparent symptoms, so it often goes undetected until serious health problems such as type 2 diabetes appear. HCPs need to talk to patients about getting their blood sugar tested and if they have any risk factors for prediabetes.
According to a study published in the American Diabetes Association (ADA) journal Diabetes Care, the economic burden associated with diagnosed diabetes, undiagnosed diabetes and prediabetes, and gestational diabetes reached nearly $404 billion in 2017. Of that cost, $43.4 billion was associated with prediabetes. In total, this costs $1,240 per person. And U.S. adults with prediabetes have an annual economic burden of $500 per person.
The challenge then becomes, “who is responsible for following up with patients who are prediabetic?”.
When I stopped exercising because of a broken bone, I gained some weight, and my insurance company did send me a letter about the dangers of weight gain, but it was a form letter, and there was no follow-up.
In a panel discussion of physicians I recently attended, most physicians said they “don’t have the weight” discussion with patients because they usually are either embarrassed or angry. Two doctors said they would warn patients and follow up via phone call or another appointment. “If my patients are prediabetic and gaining weight, I feel it’s my job to communicate to them the dangers of diabetes,” she said.
Bill Maher took a lot of heat for his comments about fat-shaming, but he has a point. Fat-shaming may not work, but we should allow obesity to become the status quo. Republicans discuss cutting spending, yet predominately red states have poorer healthcare ratings, including obesity.
Where does pharma come into this battle? Pharma should devote a section on their websites to health prevention rather than communicating that a health problem can be fixed by taking a pill.
The anti-pharma crowd loves to talk about pharma companies not caring about patients and seeing them as customers. Still, the reality is very few Americans are willing to make the sacrifices to lose weight and exercise. Have we made it too easy to treat every health problem with a pill?