Diabetes is a disease that impacts millions of Americans’ lives every year. It can be a devastating disease to many and is difficult to treat. Unfortunately, a study in the journal Lancet, reported by the Wall Street Journal, found that “[t]he number of adults with diabetes has doubled world-wide over the last three decades to nearly 350 million and increased nearly threefold in the U.S.” This resulted in 24.7 million diabetics in the United States in 2008. Shortly after reading this report, I saw a Reuters piece on weight loss surgery and diabetes. It recounted a review of data from previous studies of diabetics who had weight loss surgery (gastric bypass or gastric band). The results showed that “[m]ost obese people with type 2 diabetes will be cured of it by weight loss surgery, with gastric bypass surgery allowing more than 80 per cent of patients to come off their diabetes medication…” The article goes on to acknowledge that the study does not address whether the surgery would be sufficient to allow these patients to remain free of diabetes drugs long-term. Only some of the studies included long-term follow up. However, the point is made that by paying the upfront cost of surgery for those patients who qualify as candidates for weight-loss surgery, many patients can live without diabetes treatment and there would be substantially less long-term health care costs.
When do the benefits outweigh the risks? What about the long-term vs. short term costs?
This certainly raises some interesting questions. What can be done about the dramatic and devastating increases in diabetes in the US and worldwide? Should major surgery be one solution to addressing this problem? What about the upfront risks of having these surgeries performed? What about the dangers associated with the major medical procedures? Should the greater upfront cost and risks of surgery be outweighed by the potential benefits if millions of people could live their lives free from diabetes and related medical treatment?
For more information and a comprehensive look at some of the pros and cons of allowing more Americans to undergo weight loss surgery, you may also want to check out Brian Nash’s article: Lap-Band (Weight Loss) Surgery: is it for you? FDA clears new Allergan system and opens door to more patients.
For interesting videos about diabetes, please visit our Diabetes video playlist.