Exclusive: US diabetes deaths are over 100,000 for the second year in a row

January 31 (Reuters) – More than 100,000 Americans died of diabetes in 2021, marking the second year in a row for the grim milestone and encouraging a call for a federal mobilization similar to the fight against HIV / AIDS.

The new figures come as an expert panel urges Congress to review diabetes treatment and prevention, including recommendations to go beyond being dependent on medical intervention alone. A report released earlier this month calls for far broader policy changes to stem the diabetes epidemic, such as promoting healthier food consumption, securing paid maternity leave from the workplace, collecting taxes on sugary drinks and expanding access to affordable housing, among other areas.

In 2019, diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in America, claiming more than 87,000 lives, reflecting a long-standing failure to manage the disease and leaving many more vulnerable as the COVID-19 pandemic struck, creating new barriers to accessing care .

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Since then, the country’s diabetes rate has risen sharply, surpassing 100,000 deaths in each of the past two years and representing a new record high, according to a Reuters analysis of preliminary death data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Diabetes-related deaths increased by 17% in 2020 and 15% in 2021 compared to the pre-pandemic level in 2019. The excluded deaths directly attributed to COVID-19. The CDC endorsed the Reuters analysis, saying further deaths from 2021 are still being counted.

“The large number of diabetes deaths for the second year in a row is certainly a cause for alarm,” said Dr. Paul Hsu, an epidemiologist at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health. “Type 2 diabetes itself can be relatively preventable, so it’s even more tragic that so many deaths occur.”

In a new report, the National Clinical Care Commission set up by Congress said the United States should adopt a more comprehensive approach to prevent more people from developing type 2 diabetes, the most common form, and to help people already diagnosed with to avoid life. threatening complications. About 37 million Americans, or 11% of the population, have diabetes, and one in three Americans will develop the chronic disease in their lifetime if current trends continue, according to the commission.

“Diabetes in the United States can not only be seen as a medical or health problem, but must also be addressed as a societal problem that transcends many sectors, including food, housing, trade, transportation and the environment,” the commission wrote in its statement. January 5 report to Congress and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The federal panel recommended that Congress set up an office of national diabetes policy that would coordinate efforts across government and monitor changes outside health policy. It would be separate from HHS and could look like the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, according to Dr. William Herman, Commission President and Professor of Internal Medicine and Epidemiology at the University of Michigan.

“We are not going to cure the problem of diabetes in the United States with medical intervention,” Herman told Reuters. “The idea is to bring something together across federal agencies so that they systematically talk to each other.”

U.S. Senator Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat who chairs the Senate Health Committee, helped set up the commission in 2017 and said she is studying the recommendations carefully.

“People with diabetes and other chronic diseases were already facing challenges long before the pandemic hit, and COVID has only made these problems worse,” Murray said in a statement to Reuters. “It is absolutely crucial to research and find solutions to better support diabetic patients and give them the care they need.”


As Reuters reported last year in a series, diabetes represents a major public health failure in the United States. The number of Americans with the disease has exploded in recent decades, and their prognosis has worsened, although the cost of new treatments has risen sharply.

The pandemic has been shown to be particularly fatal to people with diabetes. People with poorly controlled diabetes are at least twice as likely to die from COVID-19, according to the report. And diabetes and its complications are more common in low-income Americans and colored people, long-lasting differences that were further revealed during the pandemic.

Dr. Shari Bolen, a commissioner and associate professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University and MetroHealth System in Cleveland, said the staggering number of diabetes deaths is “discouraging, but also a call to action.”

The Federal Panel’s report marked the first such review of diabetes since 1975. During that time, the incidence of diabetes among American adults has increased from 5.3% in the late 1970s to 14.3% in 2018, is it called. Direct medical costs related to diabetes were $ 237 billion in 2017, and an estimated $ 90 billion was lost due to lower productivity in the United States.

High costs of doctor visits, medications and supplies force many diabetic patients to forgo or delay routine treatment. Many patients and U.S. lawmakers have expressed outrage at the rising price of insulin, which type 1 diabetes patients have to take their entire lives, and which is sometimes required to keep type 2 patients’ disease under control. The Commission approved proposals such as limiting insulin price increases to the inflation rate and government negotiations on drug prices.

Murray and other lawmakers have pushed for a provision in the Biden administration’s proposed Build Back Better legislation that would limit insulin costs to $ 35 for many patients.

To further ease financial barriers, the panel recommended that patients’ own costs be waived for other “high-value” treatments, including certain diabetes drugs, continuous glucose monitors, basic supplies, and diabetes education.

The Commission also highlighted the risk of overtreatment in elderly adults with type 2 diabetes. Reuters wrote about this risk in November, and how a drug industry campaign for an aggressive treatment target led to an epidemic of potentially fatal incidents of low blood sugar or hypoglycemia. The panel asked federal health officials to track overtreatment among Medicare patients to “reduce the incidence of severe hypoglycaemia and improve patient safety.”

The Commission said the United States should better promote the purchase of fruits and vegetables in food aid programs and ensure that mothers have paid family leave to help with breastfeeding, which can help reduce the risk of diabetes in mothers and is associated with a reduced risk of obesity and diabetes in children. The panel also recommended imposing taxes on sugary drinks that would raise their shelf price by 10% to 20% and use the proceeds to expand access to clean drinking water and fund similar programs.

HHS exposed comment to Herman. In a statement, the CDC said the report’s recommendations offer a detailed roadmap to “address rising health care costs attributed to diabetes and reduce racial, ethnic and income disparities in diabetes outcomes.”

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Reporting by Chad Terhune and Robin Respaut; Edited by Daniel Wallis

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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