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    As Diabetes Numbers Rise, Costs Mount

    The pharmacist's role in diabetes care will only continue to grow.


    In 1960, about 1% of the American population was diagnosed with diabetes, according to the CDC. By 2015, it was 7.4%—more than 23 million people. The ADA estimates that another 7.2 million Americans have undiagnosed diabetes, accounting for almost a quarter of the 30.3 million Americans with the disease.

    “We’re entering what I think is really an interesting new era for diabetes treatment,” said Robin Southwood, PharmD, CDC, BC-ADM, Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy. “And we’re just at the beginning if it.”

    For example, a few years ago, there were two medications for diabetes. Now there are 11 or 12 types, Peterson said. These treatments take new approaches, including blocking the kidneys from reabsorbing sugar, so glucose is urinated out of the body. Two big advancements: Blood glucose levels are measured much more effectively, and diabetes can be diagnosed earlier.

    Related article: Five Innovative New Products for Diabetes

    Self-management has become a major component of treating and improving the lives of people with diabetes. Advising and educating patients is one area where pharmacists are playing a larger role, said Southwood. “There is a huge need for diabetes education,” he said. “Far too few people attend diabetes education sessions.”

    The role of the pharmacist in treating diabetes continues to grow. In some states, pharmacists can now order lab tests and refill prescriptions, said Mohamed Jalloh, PharmD, Assistant Professor in the Clinical Sciences Department at Touro University California College of Pharmacy. Pharmacists advise diabetes patients on lifestyle strategies such as regular exercise, he said.

    They can also educate people about diabetes in programs recognized by the CDC National Diabetes Prevention Program, which is aimed at heading off the disease before it starts. Jalloh said he also hoped to see more medications that prevent diabetes.

    “I do hope there’s a greater emphasis on prevention,” Jalloh said. “Prevention is more effective, and it’s safer than treating it.”

    Ken Valenti
    Ken Valenti is a freelance writer based in Westchester County, NY.


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