Good and bad news from CDC's U.S. diabetes stats

The “Dribble to Stop Diabetes” campaign was launched on Feb. 18 at the NBA All-Star 2011 game.

Alarming statistics are as common in the healthcare world as healthcare workers themselves, but some of the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are particularly dramatic: Nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes, the agency said in late January, and an estimated 79 million U.S. adults — representing more than one-third of all adults in the country — have prediabetes.

“We’ve seen that diabetes has been on the rise for quite a while, but the new data from the CDC is a real wake-up call,” American Diabetes Association president for medicine and science Robert Henry said.

But one reason for the 2011 number’s substantial increase over the 23.6 million Americans estimated to have diabetes in 2008 is encouraging: In addition to more people developing diabetes, many people with the disease are living longer thanks to better management of the disease. Also, use of the hemoglobin A1C test, which measures blood-glucose levels over a two- to three-month period, has increased.

Many health providers have been doing their part to address the epidemic. Last month, the Pharmacy Benefit Management Institute awarded CVS Caremark and its pharmacy benefit management client, ArcelorMittal, with the 2011 Rx Benefit Innovation Award in recognition for its Pharmacy Advisor program, which uses CVS Caremark’s PBM and retail segments to improve medication adherence and to close care gaps for members with diabetes.
Suppliers have been getting in on the game also — in some cases, literally. Last month, French drug maker Sanofi-Aventis formed a partnership with the National Basketball Association and the American Diabetes Association to launch the “Dribble to Stop Diabetes” awareness campaign. The campaign, which includes public service announcements and educational materials, was launched on Feb. 18 at the NBA All-Star 2011 game in Los Angeles with assists from Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic, Alana Beard of the WNBA team the Washington Mystics and NBA veterans Walt Frazier and Chris Dudley.

One trend whose effects on diabetes remain unclear is healthcare reform, even though it will increase access to care for millions of diabetics. “If there is a clearly defined episode of care, an emphasis on diagnosis, education and management of the disease early, and a flexible treatment algorithm that permits patients and physicians to customize regimens and keep patients at or below their target goals, then healthcare reform will be a great step in battling the diabetes epidemic,” IMS Health principal Brian Lasky told Drug Store News.

“However, if healthcare reform is only about controlling cost, using the lowest-cost therapies and processes in order to offset the increase of patient volume, ... I have concerns that there is the potential that innovation in the research and management of the disease will be stifled. ... Healthcare reform could wind up costing patients more than just dollars,” Lasky added.

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