Free Diabetes Drugs Could Save U.S. Money

No-cost ACE inhibitors would keep diabetics out of the hospital, experts say

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MONDAY, July 18, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Providing certain medicines free of charge to elderly diabetes patients could pay off in huge benefits to society, a new study finds.

Using computerized models, researchers at the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor found that a group of drugs called ACE inhibitors are so beneficial that giving them away to the 8 million diabetic Americans over 65 would:

  • Increase the number of people using the drugs,
  • Prevent more heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure in those people,
  • Ultimately save the Medicare system millions of dollars by reducing treatment for life-threatening illnesses.

ACE inhibitors have been shown to slow the kidney damage often experienced by people with diabetes and cut their high risk of heart attacks and strokes.

"All in all, ACE inhibitors are widely recommended as important medications for almost anyone with diabetes to take," study author Dr. Allison Rosen said in a prepared statement. "But cost has been shown to get in the way. And so, the Medicare program -- and all American taxpayers -- are paying instead for the hospital bills of people who had heart attacks and strokes that might have been prevented if they'd been taking ACE inhibitors."

The researchers' analysis showed that providing the drug at no cost to senior diabetics could save Medicare $1,606 over each person's life. The patients would also live longer and healthier lives, they said.

The findings are published in the July 19 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

More information

The National Institutes of Health have more about ACE inhibitors.

SOURCES: University of Michigan Health System, news release, July 18, 2005

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