Diabetes treatment costs could be shaved

June 15, 2012

A recent study indicated that the cost of diabetes treatment could be reduced if physicians prescribed more generics

The significant cost of diabetes treatments on the U.S. healthcare system could be alleviated if physicians prescribed more generics, a recent study indicated.

In 35% of cases involving more than 250,000 newly diagnosed diabetes mellitus patients, physicians did not follow recommended diabetes treatments, according to a study published in a recent issue of The American Journal of Medicine. The study, which was conducted by researchers from Harvard University, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and CVS Caremark, based its treatment comparisons on the consensus guidelines for recommended treatment issued by the American Diabetes Association/European Association for the Study of Diabetes.

In the researchers' review of pharmacy claims of patients newly started on a diabetes medication between January 1, 2006, and December 31, 2008, more than a third of initial treatments did not include the ADA's recommended first-line drug, which is a generic. Over the course of the study period, the proportion of patients initially treated with metformin increased from 51% to 65%, while those receiving sulfonylureas decreased from 26% to 18%.

If the study reflects the U.S. population, which averages two million new cases of diabetes each year, "that would translate to more than $420 million in additional direct medication costs for diabetes therapy outside the established consensus guideline recommendations," Choudhry said. "Because the prevalence of diabetes is increasing dramatically, the potential savings from improved adherence to these recommendations could far exceed these estimates."