Half of total dollars spent on diabetes is for older Australians

Just over half of the total health expenditure relating to diabetes in Australia is spent on people aged 65 and over, according to a new report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Of the estimated $784 million spent on treating diabetes in 2000-01, $419 million was for people aged 65 and over.

AIHW report author Tracy Dixon said that Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes, became more common with age, and expenditure followed this pattern.

'Looking across the age groups there is a general rise, but you can see that the big increase in expenditure begins from the 35-44 years age group, and this is the age group where Type 2 diabetes begins to appear.'

Diabetes is estimated to affect around 1 million Australians, although up to half of these people may not be aware that they have the condition.

Ms Dixon says that Type 1 diabetes constitutes 10-15% of cases in Australia, but accounted for about a quarter of the total recurrent expenditure on diabetes ($180 million) due to higher pharmaceutical costs and greater use of allied health and outpatient services.

'Type 2 diabetes accounts for 85-90% of cases and 77% of total health expenditure on diabetes.

'This means there is potential for substantial savings for governments, organisations, and individuals,' says Ms Dixon.

The AIHW report, Costs of Diabetes in Australia, 2000-01 ranks diabetes fifteenth out of 200 diseases in terms of total recurrent health expenditure, with the average health expenditure per known case of diabetes in 2000-01 at $1,469.

Ms Dixon says that the greatest proportion of health expenditure went towards hospital services.

'A total of 37% ($289 million) was spent on hospital services, followed by expenditure on pharmaceuticals (26%, $204 million) and then out-of-hospital medical services (23% or $183 million).'

A total of $204 million was spent by the Australian Government and people with diabetes on antidiabetic drugs and diabetes testing reagents.

'Although insulins made up only 10% of the 4.6 million prescriptions for antidiabetic drugs in 2000-01' says Ms Dixon, 'these accounted for 60% of expenditure on antidiabetic drugs.'

1 April 2005

Further information: Tracy Dixon, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1103, or mobile 0407 915 851.

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, tel. 02 6244 1032.