Diabetes diagnoses jumped as a result of healthcare reform

The increase in diagnosed diabetics could mean higher prescription rates.
The increase in diagnosed diabetics could mean higher prescription rates.

Diabetes diagnoses increased 23% in states that expanded Medicaid under healthcare reform, according to a new study.

Researchers compared results between the 26 states and the District of Columbia that opted to expand their Medicaid programs and the 24 states that did not, using de-identified test results from Quest Diagnostics' testing database. Diabetes Care published the results online this week.

The increase was based on diagnosis rates during the first six months of 2013—before expansion—and the first six months of 2014, after the Medicaid expansion was implemented. Diabetes diagnoses rose 0.4% in states that did not expand their Medicaid programs.

The increase in the number of diagnoses may be considered a boon for giants like Sanofi, Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk if new patients gravitate toward their respective medications.

It could also mean greater demand on payers. Pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts said earlier this month that diabetes medications were the most expensive traditional therapy last year—for the fourth year in a row.

Healthcare costs associated with diabetes, however, are greater than the costs of prescriptions used to treat the disease. The American Diabetes Association's latest data shows that health costs for diabetes patients are almost twice as much for patients without diabetes, at around $13,700 per year, of which $7,900 is tied to diabetes.

But patients who have not been diagnosed also generate costs, as seen by a study Diabetes Care published in December. This study found that costs associated with undiagnosed diabetes patients were around $33 billion in 2012.

Early diagnoses have the potential to provide long-term savings in the shape of preventing the co-morbid conditions that treatment may help patients avoid. Diabetes is associated with conditions including heart disease, cancer and early death.

Controlling diabetes has additional payoffs, including the 20-year decline in diabetes-associated amputations and an increased lifespan.

The pool of patients requiring diabetes medications is only expected to grow: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in August that the risk of diabetes has jumped 40% in the US.