Once you are diagnosed with type-2 diabetes, your doctor will usually reach for the prescription pad. You may already be taking a drug or two for high blood pressure since it commonly accompanies obesity and pre-diabetes. You may wind up on a statin drug for cholesterol, since heart disease is the major cause of death for people with diabetes. Additionally, you are given a number of other drugs to protect your kidneys (a major diabetes complication) and at least one to control your abnormal blood sugar. Insulin is often prescribed later in the progression of the disease.
Whether it’s pills for blood sugar or a combo of pills and insulin injections, it is expected that these drugs will be a requirement for the rest of your life. Many doctors feel that every person with diabetes will ultimately need insulin due to the loss of insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas over time. This disease has a slow downward projection with ever-increasing costs falling on the patient, insurance companies, and ultimately taxpayers to cover.
Drug Costs Continue to Rise
The cost for diabetes drugs has been on the rise. Six well-known brand-name diabetes drugs have increased in cost by 150% in just five years. One reason being the practice of one drug company escalating costs that the others follow. Insulin has existed almost 100 years, but still has no generic alternative that could lower the price.
An analysis by The Health Care Cost Institute reported annual health care spending for diabetics at $14,999. That’s $10,000 more per year than for those without diabetes. As this number is projected to continue rising, especially as younger people develop diabetes and our obese population remains high, out-of- pocket expense will also increase.
A person with diabetes will spend an average of $1,922 per year on co-payments and deductibles compared to $738 for a person free of the disease.
Medicare patients on multiple medications can easily fall into the “donut hole” of a $2,960 annual medication deductible. After they reach that amount of drug spending, they are liable for expenses until they reach the catastrophic coverage level of $4,700.
Studies have shown that when the “donut hole” is reached, there are patients who simply can’t afford to pay out-of-pocket. These patients cut back on dosing or stop medications altogether and risk getting worse. In the long run their health suffers and treatment costs increase.
The Other High Costs of Drugs
Financial costs are not the only downside of our complete dependence on drugs to address type-2 diabetes. All medications come with side effects; some are only annoyances but others can be deadly.
Some of the older diabetes meds that stimulate insulin secretion, including insulin itself, can increase the risk of heart disease and interfere with weight loss. For an obese person with diabetes, just losing weight can go a long way in improving blood sugar control and lowers risk of complications. You may not be aware that your treatment may be making you worse.
Some of the newer drugs are associated with an increased risk of pancreatitis, various cancers, kidney and gall bladder problems, infection, and recently reported severe joint pains. Not to speak of the very high costs associated with newer drugs.
Given the escalating rates of type-2 diabetes, worldwide pharmaceutical companies are looking forward to more drugs coming to market. This, of course, means billions of dollars a year in their pockets.
A diet supported by research as safe and effective, that can often eliminate the need for diabetes meds would not be welcome. Yet Low-Carb practitioners have been doing just that for decades. If obesity and type-2 diabetes can be managed by dietary changes, why are we risking so much by relying on drugs?
What Can Go Wrong?
Think of type-2 diabetes as an extreme form of carbohydrate intolerance. It is primarily carbohydrate heavy foods that elevate blood sugar. Insulin produced by specialized cells in the pancreas is secreted to move that glucose into the cells for energy. All excess glucose is turned into glycogen or fatty acids (triglycerides) and carried in the blood or stored in fat cells, muscle cells, or in the liver.
Over time if one continues to eat too many carbs, especially those of the worst quality,
they become to some extent immune (insulin resistant) to a normal amount of insulin. Once this occurs, more and more insulin must be secreted to keep blood sugar normal. The high amounts of insulin in the blood increases fat storage and causes inflammation, continuing the cycle.
Since diabetes is a from of carbohydrate intolerance, the most logical solution is to avoid the wrong kinds of carbs and find the appropriate amount that will keep blood sugar controlled with little to no medication.
Over time if this pattern of poor diet and weight gain continues, the special cells in the pancreas can no longer keep up an excessive production of insulin and they begin to burn out. Once abnormally high blood sugars (type-2 diabetes) are found, about 80% of the insulin making cells no longer function. When this occurs, many then require insulin injections.
This scenario is not a foregone conclusion. Since diabetes is a from of carbohydrate intolerance, the most logical solution is to avoid the wrong kinds of carbs and find the appropriate amount that will keep blood sugar controlled with little to no medication. This strategy will also allow for weight loss without hunger and cravings. It is not unusual for a person on the proper level of carb restriction to no longer require insulin.
Until recently, the dietary advice given to people with diabetes has been one of low-fat, lower protein, and 40 to 65 % carbs with the understanding that meds will need to be given to cover such a high amount of carb intake.
At HEAL our goal is to significantly relieve the load on the beta cells by cutting the carb intake: both the quantity and quality of carbs must be individualized. When dealing with abnormal blood sugar levels, carb intake is best kept low to stop the overproduction of insulin and ease the burden on insulin-making cells in the pancreas.
It is believed that some pancreatic cells can recover function if glucose levels in the blood normalize enough to allow those cells to heal. The sooner one cuts the carbs, the better.
Because a very Low-Carb diet is so effective at lowering blood sugar, medications including insulin must be immediately adjusted to avoid a medication overdose. HEAL physicians who have worked with the Low-Carb approach have a great deal of experience at managing medications safely.