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.'