NY Times Examines Shortcomings In Diabetes Care

Armen Hareyan's picture

In the latest installment of a series profiling the leading causes of death in the U.S., the New York Timeson Monday examined diabetes -- the fifth-leading cause of death behindheart disease, cancer, stroke and pulmonary disease. Almost 73,000 U.S.residents die from diabetes annually. Upon diagnosis, many patientswith diabetes become "fixated" on controlling their blood sugar levelsand neglect the need to lower their cholesterol level and take othersteps to protect against heart disease, "which eventually kills nearlyeveryone with diabetes," according to the Times.

A survey conducted by RoperASW for the American Diabetes Association showed that 18% of people with diabetes were aware of their increased risk for cardiovascular disease. According to CDC,only 7% of diabetes patients are receiving all the treatments theyshould have, including statins, blood pressure drugs, aspirin, insulinand drugs to lower blood sugar. In part, the "fault for the missedopportunities to prevent complications and deaths lies with the medicalsystem," according to the Times. Most diabetics aretreated by primary care doctors who have received a few hours oftraining in diabetes while in medical school. These doctors often spendjust a few minutes with diabetes patients, far less than such a complexcondition requires, according to the Times.


Inaddition, drug advertisements tend to emphasize treatments to controlblood sugar levels, which are expensive and have not been proveneffective in saving lives. Meanwhile, public health campaigns ofteninaccurately portray diabetes as a result of improper diet and asedentary lifestyle and promote the belief that losing weight is thebest way to combat the condition. The Times notes thatmost diabetics "try hard but are unable to control their disease inthis way, and most of the time it progresses as years go by, no matterwhat patients do" (Kolata [1], New York Times, 8/20).

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The Times on Monday also published three articles about treating and diagnosing diabetes.

  • Caremanagement: "Despite the fact that almost 20% of all health caredollars are spent on the management of people with diabetes, thediabetes epidemic and its associated pain and suffering grow and grow,"according to John Buse, president-elect for science and medicine at theAmerican Diabetes Association. Buse offered five pieces of informationthat all diabetics should have (New York Times, 8/20).
  • Contributingfactors: Although the "havoc diabetes wreaks is clear ... researchersare puzzled by many aspects of the disease," including the role thatobesity plays in its development and the ways in which high blood sugarlevels lead to complications of diabetes, including heart disease,stroke and damage to the nerves, kidneys and eyes, the Times reports (Kolata [2], New York Times, 8/20).
  • Statistics:The number of U.S. residents diagnosed with diabetes increased 61% from1991 to 2001, according to CDC. The agency also noted a 74% increase inobesity during the same time period, "reflecting the strong correlationbetween obesity and the development of diabetes." However, thosenumbers "may or may not reveal that the actual number of people withdiabetes has exploded," the Timesreports, adding, "It may just be that more people are learning theyhave the disease, not that the number of those with it is increasing"(Kolata [3], New York Times, 8/20).

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