Pounds Lost Could Mean Money Saved for Diabetes Patients

Diabetes patients in weight loss lifestyle program spent less money on health care treatment costs

(RxWiki News) Losing excess weight is good for the health. But it may also be good for the finances, suggest the authors of a new study.

The study followed overweight and obese diabetes patients as they underwent an intensive program focusing on weight loss.

The patients in the weight loss program spent fewer days in the hospital, were on fewer medications and spent less money on their health care.

"Discuss any new weight loss program with a medical professional."

According to the authors of this new study, which was led by Mark A. Espeland, PhD, of the Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC, both diabetes and obesity — which often appear together — increase the cost of health care.

Dr. Espeland and colleagues wanted to examine whether a lifestyle intervention program aimed at weight loss could help lower health care costs for overweight and diabetic patients.

To do so, they used data from the Look AHEAD trial, which included 5,121 adults with Type 2 diabetes. The adults were all either overweight or obese and were randomly separated into two groups.

One group participated in an intensive lifestyle intervention that focused on weight loss while the other — the control group — focused on diabetes support and education.

The intensive lifestyle intervention program included personal calorie, diet, and exercise goals and in-person group and individual meetings with trained professionals several times a month for a year — and once a month after that. The diabetes support and education group included three general education group sessions per year for the first four years and one session each year after that.

The patients were followed for an average of 9.9 years, and their health care costs and services used were monitored.

After analyzing the data, Dr. Espeland and team found that the the intensive lifestyle intervention patients had an 11 percent lower annual hospitalization rate than the diabetes education control patients — 0.177 hospitalizations per year versus 0.199.

The patients who participated in the weight loss program also had a 15 percent lower number of days spent in the hospital than the diabetes education patients — 0.69 days a year versus 0.81 days per year. This group also had a 6 percent lower number of medications — an average of 4.65 prescription medicines versus 4.96.

All of these factors combined to contribute to a 10 percent lower cost for hospitalizations and a 7 percent lower cost for medicines in the intensive lifestyle intervention group versus the control group.

Dr. Espeland and team found that participation in the intensive weight loss lifestyle program amounted to an average savings of $5,280 over 10 years per person. They did note that these financial savings were not seen among patients who also had a history of heart disease.

The patients self-reported some of the data, including information on hospitalizations. Further research is needed to confirm these findings, the study authors noted.

The study was published online Aug. 21 in Diabetes Care.

A number of study authors reported ties to various organizations, including Terumo Medical Corporation, Novo Nordisk, Amylin Pharmaceuticals, and Eli Lilly and Company.

Review Date: 
August 19, 2014