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Bariatric surgery can significantly reduce medical costs, study shows

By Tauren Dyson
Bariatric surgery can significantly reduce medical costs, study shows
People with severe obesity had their diabetes costs cut by 65 percent between three to six months following weight loss surgery. File Photo by Tiago Zr/Shutterstock

June 21 (UPI) -- Weight loss surgery may not only help people add years to their lives, it adds dollars to their bank accounts, a new study says.

People with severe obesity had their diabetes costs cut by 65 percent between three to six months after weight loss surgery, according to a study presented at the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery national clinical symposium. In addition, patients reduced their spending on blood pressure medications by one-third.

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"When we take into account the growing number of people with obesity in the United States, we must consider the associated increased number of people requiring treatment for diabetes and/or high blood pressure," Naomi Parrella, an assistant professor in the department of surgery at Rush Medical College and study co-author, told UPI. "In addition to the absolute increased numbers of people requiring treatment, there are increasing costs of ever more expensive and newer medications to manage these two chronic diseases. The potential total cost savings is huge."

The retrospective study included 210 patients whose monthly costs averaged $225 for diabetes medication and $71 for hypertension drugs. Spending on diabetes medication between three to six months following bariatric surgery fell by up to $80. The cost of hypertension drugs also dropped by $47 to $54.

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Researchers retrospectively examined data from 210 patients and found patients prior to surgery spent an average of $225 per month on diabetes drugs and $71 on hypertensive medications.

In 2017, the healthcare industry spent $327 billion to treat diabetes, making it the costliest chronic disease in the United States, according to the American Diabetes Association.

And people with hypertension pay nearly $2,000 in additional costs for treatment compared to those without the condition, a 2018 study reported.

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"Based on changes in diabetes medication costs before surgery to costs six months after surgery in this study, we estimate an average savings of at least $1,852.20 per year thereafter," Parrella said. "This does not include the additional cost savings -- supplies, emergency treatment for hypoglycemic episodes, increased number of medical appointments, treatment of complications of diabetes, etc. -- for those who have complete remission of their diabetes."

Healthcare costs related to diabetes rose from $245 billion in 2012 to $327 billion in 2017. In all, diabetes spending accounted for roughly one-fourth of all healthcare costs.

According to the ASMBS, 78 percent of diabetes cases go into remission following bariatric surgery.

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Adults with obesity lost 29 percent of their body mass while teens lost 26 percent following weight loss surgery.

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The National Diabetes Statistics Report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2017 estimated 100 million people in the United States had either diabetes or prediabetes.

"This study provides additional support for patients, providers and payers to include metabolic and bariatric surgery as a potentially cost-effective treatment option for appropriate patients with obesity and diabetes and/or hypertension," Parrella said.

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