IT IS NOT THE COST OF THE DRUGS!
There you go: simple isn't it? Complete idiots think that the cost of diabetes is in the drugs. It isn't, and it only takes a little thought to realise why. When diabetes is well controlled - whether type 1 or type 2 - the patient is a fully functioning member of society, no one will know that they have the condition. Indeed, many colleagues do not know that I have type 1 diabetes. The only visible sign of the condition is me injecting insulin before I eat and I have become adept at doing the injection surreptitiously under the table in restaurants (all you need to do is wait for the food to appear - people naturally spend a couple of minutes inspecting what's on their plate and not at you).
A well controlled diabetic is no different to a non-diabetic when it comes to contributing to GDP. The cost of diabetic drugs is fairly small. NHS Information Centre says that last year it was £725m. There are 2.5m people with diabetes (10% are type 1), so that means less than £300 per person.
I have written before that the cost of the drugs I take is small - a few quid a day. However, I only listed the insulin that I must take. I also take other medicine which are preventative: statins and two types of hypertension drugs one of which I am told protects me from kidney damage. These drugs cost pennies per day. The fact that they are preventative is very important because the real cost of diabetes is the cost of the complications from poor control. Long term high blood sugar leads to blindness, nerve damage (leading to amputations), kidney damage (needing dialysis or transplant) and cardiovascular disease. This is where the cost lies. Secondary to this cost of treatment is the monitoring once you show signs of a complication to determine when intervention is needed.
For example I have retinopathy where the blood vessels on my retina are weak and liable to burst. Since this was diagnosed 20 years ago I have had retina clinic appointments every 6 months. I have also had many tens of thousands of laser burns on my retinas to try and prevent vessels growing too big and when one did, and burst, I had an operation where the gel in my eye was removed, my retina cleaned of the bleed and the vessel sealed. That operation lead to me getting a cataract, so I have had cataract operations too. These interventions cost many tens of thousands of pounds: as I said, it is the complications that cost.
Incidentally, for the last 5 years I have been subject to "patient choice". Every six months my GP and my local optician send me a letter telling me that I need to have my retinas screened. Every six months I politely phone them up and tell they to take me off their marketing lists because I am seen every six months by a consultant at the hospital retina clinic. (I don't want to upset GPs or opticians, but honestly, do you really think you know more about my retinas than the specialist at the hospital?) Neither the GP, nor the optician, have shown any sign of removing me from their marketing list. Beware, AQP will open the floodgates to far more companies touting for business like this.
Today the NHS Information Centre published figures of the cost of diabetic drugs. Inevitably these figures have been misreported.
Diabetes prescriptions now account for 8.4 per cent of the entire NHS net bill for primary care drugs in England.These drugs - if used correctly - will prevent a large range of complications and hence reduce demand on the NHS in the future. We should not focus on the cost of these drugs now, and instead we should focus on the cost of diabetes if we didn't spend this money.