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China to improve diabetes care

11-07-2011 08:52 BJT

BEIJING - Diabetes is one of the diseases included in an inter-ministerial roadmap for enhanced intervention in chronic diseases that is now being drafted.

The aim is to set feasible targets, define responsibilities among stakeholders and distribute implementation guidelines, said Ji Linong, head of the Chinese Diabetes Society.

According to Ji, who participated in its drafting, the roadmap is scheduled to be implemented in five years.

By then, "problems undermining an effective diabetes response, such as the cost of equipment and insufficient insurance programs, will be better addressed, which will provide patients with more affordable treatment and reduce the nation's expenditure on healthcare," he told China Daily in an exclusive interview on Sunday, one day before China Diabetes Standard Injection Day.

There are 92.4 million diabetes sufferers in China, according to official statistics.

Usually, a diabetic is recommended to start insulin injection therapy five years after diagnosis and the medicine for blood glucose control is now covered by health insurance policies.

"But the equipment necessary for injecting is still not reimbursed, which can compromise treatment efficacy," said Guo Xiaohui, deputy director of the society.

Sun Shumin, 61, began injecting insulin last year but she uses each needle, designed for one-time use, six times.

"A needle costs more than 2 yuan (31 cents), and I can't afford to discard it after only using it once," said the Beijing retiree, who requires an insulin injection three times a day and lives on a pension of around 2,000 yuan a month.

Sun, who now uses the 5-millimeter needle, said though she knows the 4-mm needle, which is more expensive, can reduce the pain but she cannot afford it.

Studies by the Chinese Diabetes Society and the US medical technology company Becton, Dickinson and Company, found that more than 60 percent of China's insulin injectors have improperly controlled blood glucose levels, largely due to improper injections.

Experts warn that reusing a needle affects the insulin dosage, which means a loss of control over blood glucose levels, so patients have a higher risk of developing complications like strokes, kidney problems, or limb amputation.

According to official statistics, the annual expenditure on diabetes on the mainland is about 13 percent of the total health expenditure - around $25 billion - of which about 80 percent goes to the treatment of complications.

"That'll be greatly reduced if the injecting equipment is covered by health insurance," said Ji.

Editor:Zhang Jianfeng |Source: China Daily

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