Lifewatch: Diabetes drugs

Reported by Claire Hosmann - email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

CHICAGO (WECT) - The cost of diabetes drugs has nearly doubled in only six years, but according to a new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, new drugs don't always lead to better outcomes.

Close to 20-million Americans were diagnosed with diabetes in 2007, which is nearly double the number from 14 years earlier.

Now, a new study says that in only six years, the cost of drugs to treat the disease nearly doubled.

"An average prescription for diabetes in 2001 cost $56 and by 2007 this was $76, nearly 40% increase," said Dr. Caleb Alexander, the lead researcher at the University of Chicago.

The University of Chicago study found the greatest contributor to rising costs is use of newer, more expensive medications.

It also found that more patients are using multiple treatments, including oral medicine prescribed as alternatives to injecting insulin.

"The million dollar question is whether the cost of these treatments are worth it," said Alexander.

The study indicates no one knows for sure if the more expensive drugs lead to better diabetes control than some of the older, more tested alternatives.

"We feel that studies are urgently needed to better evaluate the long term safety and effectiveness of these newer drugs," said Alexander.

The authors note, the rapid growth of diabetes reflects a trend of overweight children and adults.  Risk of the disease increases with obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.

Researchers warn that long term outcomes of new drugs may take years to measure.

They urge patients to talk with their doctors about whether less expensive alternatives could be safer and more effective.

For more information about diabetes, click here.