Saving Money while Saving Lives

Metformin treatment and lifestyle intervention for type 2 diabetes saves money and improves quality of life

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) It's a no-brainer that stopping diabetes before it starts will make a person's life better. On top of that, preventing type 2 diabetes can save money in the long-run.

People who are overweight or obese have a high risk for type 2 diabetes. Giving these people Fortamet (metformin) or changing their lifestyles not only improves their quality of life, but also lowers the cost of medical care by $1700 to $2600 per person.

"Stopping diabetes before it starts makes lives better and saves money."

These results - which were presented at the American Diabetes Association's 71st Scientific Sessions - are important because it is not common for a health intervention to improve health and save money at the same time, says William H. Herman, M.D., M.P.H., Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at the University of Michigan and one of the researchers on the study.

The study shows that a lifestyle intervention costs more than metformin treatment. While metformin treatment saved about $30 per person, the cost of the lifestyle intervention was about $1500 per person over a 10-year period.

On the other hand, the lifestyle intervention was twice as good at slowing down the progression of diabetes compared to metformin treatment. This means that the lifestyle intervention led to a better quality of life for high-risk patients.

In the end, however, both lifestyle interventions and metformin treatment improved quality of life and kept diabetes at bay in many patients. By preventing diabetes, both treatments are very cost-effective, the researchers found.

These findings come from a 10-year cost-effectiveness study called the Diabetes Prevention Program. Even though research presented at academic meetings is seen as preliminary until it is published in a peer-reviewed journal, these findings are promising.

According to David M. Nathan, M.D., Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Chairman of the Diabetes Prevention Program, this study shows that lifestyle interventions and metformin treatment can slow down the diabetes epidemic that is affecting the United States and many other parts of the world.

For the Diabetes Prevention Program, overweight and obese people who had blood sugar problems (a sign of diabetes risk) were assigned to go through a lifestyle intervention, metformin treatment, or to take a placebo.

Results from 2002 show that the lifestyle intervention lowered diabetes rates by 58 percent. Metformin treatment led to a 31 percent decrease in diabetes rates.

Throughout the course of the seven-year follow-up period, all of the study's participants were offered a less rigorous lifestyle intervention while the patients taking metformin were told to keep taking their medication. During this period, both treatments became slightly less effective. The lifestyle intervention lowered diabetes rates by 34 percent while metformin treatment lowered rates by 18 percent.

In light of these findings, the Diabetes Prevention Program researchers recommend that health care policies in the U.S. and around the world should use lifestyle interventions and metformin treatment to stop or slow down diabetes.

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Review Date: 
July 1, 2011
Last Updated:
July 6, 2011