Economic Burden of Diabetes Demonstrates Need for Early Intervention

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New report shows cost to Louisiana tops $5 billion yearly
Released: Thursday, November 20, 2014

Baton Rouge, LA - As the rate of diabetes in America continues to increase, alarming new numbers show that the cost to the U.S. and Louisiana in particular, is staggering. The direct and indirect costs of diabetes in Louisiana have risen to $5.4 billion per year according to a study published today in the December issue of Diabetes Care. Nationally, the price tag for the disease has grown to $322 billion per year in excess medical costs and lost productivity. Diabetes now accounts for 1 out of every 10 health care dollars spent, pointing to a bolstered need for intervention during the prediabetes state.

Dr. William T. Cefalu, executive director of LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center and the editor of Diabetes Care, cites the alarming rise in costs for those with prediabetes and undiagnosed diabetes. Since 2007, researchers found that the cost of prediabetes went up 74 percent to $44 billion and the cost of undiagnosed diabetes grew a shocking 82 percent to $33 billion. Cefalu and his colleagues from the American Diabetes Association remarked in an editorial on the new numbers today and called for increased awareness and action to stem the disease.

"Increased prevalence of the disease, not increased cost per patient, is the driving force behind the increased economic burden of diabetes," said Cefalu and his ADA colleagues. "The crisis is worsening - the time to act is now. These data clearly should signal a call for action."

The new statistical data on diabetes in the U.S. was published in a study entitled "The Economic Burden of Elevated Blood Glucose Levels in 2012." This study expands upon data released last year by the ADA, and shows a 48 percent increase in direct and indirect costs associated with diabetes over the last five years. More than a quarter - 27 percent - of that increase stems from the growing number of people being diagnosed with diabetes, while only 14 percent comes from the growing cost to treat the disease.

The study notes, "For the 314 million Americans in 2012, this burden represents a ‘hidden tax,' averaging over $1,000 per person in the form of higher costs for medical insurance (including higher taxes to cover Medicaid and Medicare costs) and reduced national productivity. For a typical American family in 2012 with 3 members and a median income of $64,000, this diabetes burden equates to 4.8 percent of income (up from 3.4 percent in 2007)."

Previous studies have shown that making lifestyle changes, including losing weight, increasing physical activity and changing one's diet can greatly reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes. For example, the national Diabetes Prevention Program study, which Pennington Biomedical participated in, proved that people can reduce their risk of being diagnosed with diabetes by 58 percent through moderate diet and exercise, resulting in a 5- to 7-percent weight loss.

"The increasing number of new cases of diabetes is a primary driver of increasing costs to state health systems. This makes prevention a priority for so much more than health improvement. Encouraging lifestyle changes that we know can be effective in preventing diabetes is a key strategy. Just a few positive lifestyle changes can lead to fewer medicines for those with prediabetes and diabetes," Cefalu said. "Pennington Biomedical is putting science to work through pioneering basic research and participation in landmark investigational programs which seek ways to better prevent and treat this devastating disease."

Pennington Biomedical is seeking participants for a number of research programs currently underway which are pursing preventions and treatments for diabetes, helping people recognize their risk for the disease, and get healthier.

  • GRADE: Designed to find out which of four FDA-approved diabetes medications, when combined with metformin, is most effective in treating diabetes.
  • D2d: Designed to determine if daily vitamin D3 intake reduces the rate of progression from prediabetes to diabetes.
  • STARCH: Designed to determine the effect of slowly digesting starch on gut bacteria, sugar and fat metabolism, hunger hormones and body fat in people with prediabetes.

U.S. Diabetes Fast Facts:

  • 21 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes
  • 86 million people have prediabetes (elevated blood sugar levels that are not high enough for a diabetes diagnosis)
  • An estimated 8.1 million people have undiagnosed diabetes, which costs $33 billion a year
  • More than $244 billion goes to excess medical costs (office or hospital visits, costly health conditions such as organ transplantations)
  • $78 billion is the current cost of reduced productivity stemming from the disease
  • Together excess medical costs and reduced productivity total $322 billion per year - or more than $1,000 for every American
  • These costs are up 48 percent since 2007

Louisiana Diabetes Fast Facts:

  • 380,000 people have been diagnosed with diabetes (at a cost of $3 billion per year)
  • 1.27 million have prediabetes (at a cost of $665 million per year)
  • 124,000 people are undiagnosed (at a cost of $384 million per year)
  • The total direct and indirect cost of diabetes to Louisiana is $5.4 billion per year

If you would like to participate in a clinical trial, please visit or call (225) 763-3000.

To access the Diabetes Care article published today or the editorial commentary from Dr. Cefalu and his ADA colleagues please visit


The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the triggers of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. It is a campus of Louisiana State University and conducts basic, clinical and population research. The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes approximately 80 faculty and more than 25 post-doctoral fellows who comprise a network of 44 laboratories supported by lab technicians, nurses, dietitians, and support personnel, and 13 highly specialized core service facilities. Pennington Biomedical's more than 500 employees perform research activities in state-of-the-art facilities on the 222-acre campus located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.