Diabetes is a serious public-health threat, affecting an estimated 300,000-350,000 South Carolinians. One of them is my daughter.
Diabetes costs more than heart disease, cancer or AIDS — and its prevalence among U.S. adults has grown by 45 percent over the past 20 years.
South Carolina has the nation’s 10th highest prevalence of the disease, and hospital charges related to diabetes topped $338 million in 2012, up more than 50 percent since 2006. Medicare and Medicaid pay for more than two-thirds of this, placing a significant burden on taxpayers and our economy.
But the toll of diabetes is more than financial; it is also highly emotional. Like countless other parents, I worry constantly about my daughter. Will she be able to maintain proper blood-glucose levels? Will she be able to achieve her hopes and dreams despite this life-threatening disease?
Fortunately, America’s biopharmaceutical research companies are developing therapies and new treatments that could ensure a better future for her and everyone living with diabetes. There are 180 new medicines in development for type 1 and type 2 diabetes and diabetes-related conditions, such as chronic kidney failure and painful diabetic neuropathy. Another 200 diabetes clinical trials in the United States are providing new treatment options.
But there is more to be done, and everyone has a role. New and continued collaboration among non-profit, government, industry and academia will open the door to new discoveries. Additionally, it is vital that those living with the disease have the resources and knowledge to properly manage it.
Taking diabetes medicines as directed could eliminate more than one million emergency room visits and hospitalizations annually. We know that people with diabetes who take their treatment consistently are less likely to develop other health problems, while those who are less than 80 percent adherent to their medicines are two to three times more likely to be hospitalized in the next year.
Taking diabetes medicines as directed also can reduce costs significantly for our embattled health-care system — by a whopping $8.3 billion a year in avoided hospitalizations alone.
To help educate patients, caregivers and policymakers, I am proud to participate in Diabetes under the Dome at the State House on Thursday. We invite the community to join us to receive diabetes screenings, learn how to effectively manage diabetes, speak with experts and engage in a supportive community.
As I watch my daughter grow up, it’s clear to me that we must all work together toward innovations that can help manage diabetes, improve the lives of those we love who are affected by the disease and reduce its cost and overall impact. By working together, I’m confident we can affect change for those living with and at risk of developing diabetes.
Rep. Doug Brannon