Last month, the National Clinical Care Commission (NCCC) issued a 192-page report urging an overhaul of diabetes care and an increased emphasis on preventing this deadly disease that killed more than 100,000 Americans in each of the last two years, as Reuters reported on Jan. 31.
In 2019, 87,000 Americans died of diabetes, but that number rose sharply during the coronavirus pandemic to a new record high for deaths in a year, according to a Reuters analysis of provisional data from the CDC. Reuters journalists Chad Terhune and Robin Respaut reported these numbers after analyzing CDC data.
“Diabetes-related deaths surged 17% in 2020 and 15% in 2021 compared to the pre-pandemic level in 2019,” they wrote. For a multi-part series last year, Terhune, Respaut and Deborah J. Nelson explained how diabetes represents a significant public health failure in the United States.
Any journalists writing about the high costs of diabetes, insulin and the other supplies that patients with diabetes need could model their coverage on the great work Reuters did on the series, “Out of Control. America’s losing battle against diabetes.” One of the significant themes in the series focused on how pharmaceutical companies pushed drugs to lower patients’ blood-sugar levels to potentially deadly levels and remained quiet about adverse side effects.
All health care reporters covering this topic are invited to participate in an AHCJ webcast on Wednesday, Feb. 16, to hear from and to question experts on the care and costs of diabetes, on the need for a more comprehensive approach to this deadly disease and on some of the ways the U.S. health care system can make care more affordable.
The four featured panelists for this webinar include:
- Estelle Everett, M.D.,an endocrinologist and health services researcher at the Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, Division of Endocrinology. Her research focuses on the barriers to care among patients with diabetes, inequities in diabetes care and outcomes and the disparities in access to diabetes treatment for vulnerable populations with Type 1 diabetes.
- Sanjoy Dutta, Ph.D.,chief scientific officer at JDRF where he oversees efforts to cure Type 1 diabetes, including beta cell therapies, immunotherapies, glucose control and complications.
- Karen Van Nuys, Ph.D.,executive director of the value of life sciences innovation project at the University of Southern California Schaeffer Center and a research assistant professor at the USC Price School of Public Policy. Her work focuses on funding in the pharmaceutical supply chain and the effect of commercial practices such as copay coupons and copay clawbacks on the cost of prescription drugs.
- Ted Doolittle,executive director of Connecticut’s Office of the Healthcare Advocate and an expert on a new law that limits the cost of insulin to $25 for a 30-day supply for Connecticut residents who have state-regulated health insurance and that limits the cost for diabetes-related supplies, such as pumps, blood sugar meters and syringes to $100.
When covering diabetes, another resource that would be useful is the NCCC report to Congress and the federal Department of Health and Human Services. In the report, NCCC said that about 37 million Americans, or 11% of the population, have diabetes, and one in three of us will develop the disease. To stem this tide, NCCC said the health system must adopt a more comprehensive approach to prevent more people from developing Type 2 diabetes, the most common form, and to help people who are already diagnosed avoid life-threatening complications.
High costs for doctor’s visits, medications and supplies force many diabetes patients to forgo or delay routine care. Many patients and U.S. lawmakers have expressed outrage at the rising price of insulin, which Type 1 diabetes patients must take their entire lives, and which is sometimes required to keep Type 2 patients’ disease under control. The commission endorsed proposals such as limiting insulin price increases to the rate of inflation and government negotiation of drug prices.
NCCC also recommended that patients’ out-of-pocket costs be waived for certain treatments such as diabetes drugs, continuous glucose monitors, basic supplies and diabetes education.
Check out AHCJ’s webinar next Wednesday, Feb. 16., for additional insight on how to cover diabetes.