Report: Cases of diabetes in US may double over next 25 years

A study published in the journal Diabetes Care predicts that the number of cases of diabetes in the US will rise from 23.7 million this year to 44.1 million in 2034, while the annual cost of treating the condition will nearly triple from $113 billion to $336 billion over the same period. Lead study author Elbert Huang noted that "the size of the current diabetes population exceeds many prior forecasts," and he said the expected increase in numbers and the associated costs "will be explosive."

The forecast model, which used national survey data for people aged 24 years to 85 years of age, assumed that the prevalence of diabetes in each age group would stay constant, but that the number of cases would grow as the population gets older. Huang called the predictions "very conservative" because they did not account for the growing proportion of overweight children and teenagers.

For the Medicare-eligible population alone, the paper predicts the number of diabetes cases will rise from 6.5 million to 14.1 million, and that the total annual cost of treatment will go from $45 billion to $171 billion.

Although it is possible that medical breakthroughs will improve care, it is unlikely to lead to lower costs, Huang said, noting that "in the past, in general, medical discoveries have driven costs up, not down." He noted that "the best way to stem the dramatic rise in diabetes is to implement proven preventive care programmes," but this is a long-term strategy "that will only reap benefits over decades, not years."

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