Special Section: Diabetes
Diabetes do's & don'ts
If you are one of the 21 million Americans with diabetes, you may not be taking your medications. Only 50 to 60 percent of Americans take drugs as they've been prescribed for their chronic illnesses. And, says Roger P. Austin, R.Ph., a certified diabetes educator writing in Diabetes Spectrum, 12 percent don't ever fill their prescriptions at all.
What are the health repercussions for people with diabetes? Researchers find that in the U.S. 57 percent of people with diabetes have failed to reach their target A1C level (a long-term measure of glucose control), 71 percent have not been lowered blood pressure to prescribed levels and 48 percent have not reduced LDL cholesterol levels sufficiently. No wonder heart disease is the number one killer of people with diabetes, claiming two out of three people with the disease.
According to the New England Healthcare Institute, often people fail to take their medications because of cost and because of the difficulty of managing multiple prescription regimens. They suggest these obstacles could be overcome if drugs used to prevent or manage chronic diseases cost less and were easier to take, and if patients had support and worked with case managers.
That's the approach that is being taken by two innovative programs: The American Heart Association's (AHA) The Heart of Diabetes program and the Diabetes Ten City Challenge, the brainchild of the American Pharmacists Association Foundation.
"Too often people are not in a position to afford medications," explains Robert H. Eckel, M.D., past president of the AHA. "The Heart of Diabetes helps people realize they can live a healthy lifestyle without breaking the bank. Medication is important, but lifestyle efforts are also vital."
They can improve heart health and control diabetes. To help people eat well for less, the AHA is working with Jonni McCoy, author and founder of miserlymoms.com. "I am trying to take the intimidation out of eating healthfully and being on a budget at the same time," says McCoy. To enroll in The Heart of Diabetes program and find her favorite tips for economizing, sign up at the AHA web site, IKnowDiabetes.org.
The Diabetes Ten City Challenge was a project to explore if employers, working with pharmacists, could offer employees with diabetes support and benefits (free counseling with trained pharmacist-coaches and waived co-pays for diabetes medications and supplies) and, as a result, improve employee health and save everyone involved money.
And it worked! For the 30 participating companies, the average health care expense per employee participant fell $1,079 a year. Each employee’s total medical expenditures fell by $600 per year. And those participants saw an improvement in their A1C levels and other important measures of health and healthy behavior.
Sandra Moore, one of the participants, who works for Hamilton Health Care in Dalton, GA, says, "I meet monthly with the pharmacist, and my A1C has gone from 8 to almost 5 and my blood pressure has dropped from 190/110 to 120/67!"
To find out more about this cost-saving program, visit diabetestencitychallenge.com.
- Kalia Doner