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Onto The Street Blog

The Business of Diabetes

My Diabetes Is Their Business

What do you get when you have a large and exponentially growing customer base of consumers who will forever need to refill prescriptions, purchase medical devices and seek medical care to manage chronic high blood sugar? You get a SuperGiant named The Business of Diabetes. This business of diabetes is further fueled by the fact, that the market continues to grow at epidemic rates, and while many are searching for a solution, nothing yet is remotely in sight. While diabetes is widely recognized as a chronic disease, it is also a multi billion dollar global business. It is also very true that the business of diabetes does unfortunately interfere with the management of diabetes.

Now before we go any further, let’s debunk a commonly held belief that because diabetes is a multi billion dollar business, the corporate key players involved have no incentive to find a cure. Given the market size and the economic issues created by diabetes there is a HUGE incentive to find the illusive cure. Diabetes is not just a healthcare crisis it is also an economic crisis. Governments spend billions in patient care costs, and presumably would like nothing more than to allocate these funds elsewhere. 

The Wacky World of Diabetes

Let us also note that the companies in the business of diabetes did not design nor do they like the American healthcare system as it creates as many problems for them as it does for any patient, the problems are just different. By way of example, look at the cost of insulin. Eli Lilly, Sanofi and Novo Nordisk, the three dominant insulin manufacturers, are largely responsible for what a patient pays when they pick their prescription. The same is true for the diabetes device companies.

Since my diabetes diagnosis some 30 years ago, I have listened to the complaining about how the healthcare system works. For decades, there have been hundreds, perhaps thousands of alternate options discussed and debated. Yet, even with all the attention, while some reforms have been implemented, endless issues still exist and most would agree the system is far from being “fixed”. 

The American healthcare system is a complex maze with its own set of rules. Rules that create inefficiencies which drive up the cost of care. These inefficiencies also create opportunities for the patient to save money. Yes, all of it sounds kind of crazy, which is why I often call this the Wacky World of Diabetes.

Believe me, I feel everyone’s pain on the issue as diabetes is something that I too navigate daily. Yes it’s manageable, but management comes with high financial costs. Even those with good insurance plans are dishing out thousands of dollars that their counterparts without diabetes do not have to spend. Patients with diabetes aren’t just spending their hard earned dollars on drugs and devices, life insurance and health insurance also come with higher price tags. For the many people who are either under insured or have no insurance at all; this additional, heavy financial burden creates desperate barriers in managing diabetes. How many times have you seen stories of patients skipping medications or not medicating at all because they cannot afford the insulin and other prescriptions they need? 

On The Flip Side...
When Business Benefits Diabetes

On the flip side, overlooked are the many positive benefits of the business of diabetes. Today we have cutting edge drugs and devices that can help reduce the diabetes burden for those that have access to them. The diabetes envelope is pushed because, yes, diabetes is a business. Each new product and advancement in diabetes costs billions to develop, research and support. The chances of these products being developed without a profit motive lie somewhere between slim and none. Like it or not, these companies do not answer to the patient, but instead answer to key stakeholders- the people who are most interested in and expect to see profits. 

Yes, it is a Wacky World but it is the world we live in and must learn to navigate. Perhaps one day things will be different, where patients take precedence over dollars, but today  unfortunately, is not that day.