Diabetes could ‘bankrupt’ health system

  • Guest speaker: David Hills, the chairman of the Bermuda Diabetes Association

    Guest speaker: David Hills, the chairman of the Bermuda Diabetes Association

Bermudians need a “business plan” to combat diabetes, according to the chairman of the Bermuda Diabetes Association.

The rising costs of treating the disease will escalate to be unsustainable, David Hills told Rotarians at their weekly meeting, in a bid to raise awareness of the disease.

He said the healthcare system stood to be left bankrupt by diabetes alone. But it is the cost to the individual that he was most concerned about.

The business coach and accountant said a business-minded plan of action could be the key to getting Bermudians engaged in their own care and prevention.

In his presentation, he laid out some “scary” statistics: one person dies every seven seconds with diabetes, a total of 4.9 million a year, and the estimated prevalence of diabetes on the Island is at least 15 per cent.

In a system that offers “a drug for everything” and no cure, what, he asked, were the real options?

He alluded to the benefits of sitting at the top of a pharmaceutical racket and questioned the incentive to find a cure.

“If you owned a drug company and you get a drug that earns $3 billion a year, do you think you’re interested in a cure?”

A strong signifier, he said, were the trends in global medicine use. We are witnessing frequent drug mergers, most notably Monday’s joining of pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Allergan, valued at $160 billion.

Mr Hills said that even though the primary drivers were now the “BRIC” nations — the developing group of countries, Brazil, Russia, India and China — developed countries will still account for 63 per cent of use.

That, coupled with the high margin on original brand drugs, means that global drug sales in 2014 exceeded $1 trillion.

Mr Hills said Bermuda had the highest rate of lower limb amputation in the world, per capita.

“What are the cost of all these complications?” he asked.

“The first cost is the human cost. Then there’s the social cost as a community. The family cost. And I haven’t talked about dollars yet.”

He said that a diagnosis would cost the healthcare system $200,000 per person a lifetime.

Given the number of Bermudians who have diabetes diagnosed, “do the math”, he said.

“The total amounts to billions,” he added.

His call for questions from Rotarians was met with silence.

“I hope that instead of shocking people into silence, I’ve shocked people into action,” he said.

He told the The Royal Gazette that the medical message was clear.

“I’m trying to create a business plan that allows us to get the message across,” he said. “The biggest challenge is how to motivate people.”

Mr Hills suggested a new motto: “Diabetes — a life sentence to a healthy life.”

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Published Nov 25, 2015 at 8:00 am (Updated Nov 25, 2015 at 1:41 am)

Diabetes could ‘bankrupt’ health system

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