Study: Costs skyrocket for young diabetics

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Younger diabetic patients face high healthcare costs compared to youth without the disease, according to a study published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention journal Diabetes Care. These costs were reported to be $9,061 vs. $1,468, respectively, in 2007.

The study evaluated medical costs for diabetic patients who were 19 years old and younger and who were covered by private health insurance plans in 2007. The researchers used the MarketScan Commercial Claims and Encounters Database and the estimates were based off 8,266 youth diagnosed with diabetes.

The costs have been attributed to prescription drugs and outpatient care, and the authors said that young type 1 or 2 diabetic patients with the highest medical costs were treated with insulin. The annual cost associated with insulin treatments for children was $9,333. The annual cost for patients who did not receive insulin but were taking drug therapy to curb blood glucose levels was $5,683.

"Young people with diabetes face medical costs that are six times higher than their peers without diabetes," said Ann Albright, PhD, director of CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation. "Most youth with diabetes need insulin to survive and the medical costs for young people on insulin were almost 65 percent higher than for those who did not require insulin to treat their diabetes."

The authors of the study said that the expenditures may be greater for youth patients because of higher medication costs, specialist visits and medical supplies including insulin and glucose testing strips.

Of the patients evaluated, 92 percent were on insulin compared to only 26 percent of adults with diabetes. And while the authors offered that type 2 diabetes is rare in children and youths, the rates of type 2 diabetes was higher in children ages 10 to 19 and among minorities.

Recently, type 2 diabetes, once known as adult-onset diabetes, has been found in children and teens at an increasing frequency, according to the CDC. “Reports of increasing frequency of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes in youth has been among the most concerning aspects of the evolving diabetes epidemic,” the CDC noted.

To better understand the frequency of diabetes in children and adolescents in 2000, the CDC funded the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth Study, a multicenter study conducted in six areas across the U.S. to assess type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The SEARCH database showed that in 2002 and 2003, the total incidence rate of diabetes was 24.3 per 100,000 per year, with an estimated 15,000 youth diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. The CDC said this number is expected to rise in coming years.