Diabetes costs nation Rs 2000cr a year

Written by Rohit Khanna | ROHIT KHANNA | Kolkata, Apr 29 | Updated: Apr 30 2008, 06:58am hrs
India, with 3.5 crore diabetics, loses Rs 2,000 crore a year by way of productivity, a figure that is almost one-eighth of its health budget.

According to a recent report supported by Novo Nordisk, the cost of diabetes in India is as high as 2.1% of gross domestic product. While treatment cost adds up to merely 0.2% of GDP, the productivity loss due to diabetes is almost 1.9%. The cost includes cost of treatment and loss of productivity as a result of death.

A recent report published in the UN Chronicle said India's expenditure on treatment of diabetes has touched almost $2 billion, almost three times the expenditure by 47 countries in the African region.

In India, a low-income family with a diabetic adult member could spend as much as 25% of the family income on care, the report said.

Dr A K Das, director of Jawaharlal Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education & Research (Jimper), told FE that the number of patients affected by diabetes is almost 3.5 crore now and is expected to double by 2030, according to the International Diabetes Federation.

Dr Deepak Dalal, trustee of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, said: "Most of the people are not even aware of the necessary tests like HbA1c, and if they are advised by the healthcare professionals for the test, they won't do that."

People are not only unaware of the methods of better glycemic control, they don't know the importance of new tests like glycosylated haemoglobin or HbA1c. The awareness of HbA1c in India is merely 19% against 92% in developed countries like Sweden.

A study, titled Changing Diabetes Barometer, reveals that almost 51% patients in India have never heard of the HbA1c test, and nearly half were unaware of their target level.

The HbA1c test indicates the average level of glucose in the blood for a period of 8-12 weeks, against the commonly-done blood test's limitation of a day or a moment.

While the HbA1c level is 3.5-5.5% for a normal non-diabetic, 6.5% is considered safe for a diabetic.

The report found that patients in India have only 19 minutes to consult a healthcare professional on diabetes, against 30 minutes in Sweden. Healthcare professionals in India have also reported taking 2-4 measures of HbA1c annually.

"Diabetes demands regular testing and monitoring which push up the cost of the treatment," Dalal said.

According to him, the prevalence of diabetes is 12-15% in urban population and almost one-sixth of the rural population suffer from it. With the increasing reach of technology in even rural areas, the aspiration level has gone up coupled with increased stress level.

According to experts, there is a need to wake up to modern insulin to maintain better HbA1c level. Moreover, budgetary allocation for diabetes should also be increased to take diabetes treatment to the grassroots level by enabling better access through modes like mobile units.