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Treating diabetes a costly affair


KUALA LUMPUR: When not taken care of from young, diabetes and lifestyle diseases that hit many at mid-life could impoverish families.

A patient who wants to be known only as Dolah, 54, said it costs him RM2,000 a month to treat his diabetes, hypertension, nerves, high cholesterol and gout.

He takes nine-and-a-half pills every morning, three in the afternoon and seven at night.

Dolah was diagnosed with Type II diabetes more than 20 years ago and started insulin jabs six years ago.

“The treatments are so costly and I thank my company for footing the bill. I really don’t know how I can afford them once I retire,” said Dolah.

Due to his diabetes, Dolah has to get his blood tested every month, visit a kidney specialist once every three months, an eye specialist once every four months and a physician once every five months.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said the number of diabetes cases continue to rise and the latest National Health and Morbidity Survey 2015 showed that a high 17% of the population above 18 were diabetic. Out of the 17%, it was estimated that only 8% were diagnosed and 9% undiagnosed, he said, adding that the number of undiagnosed diabetes had doubled in the last 10 years.

“If left untreated, the complications of diabetes are costly and pose a burden to the individual and the health system,” he said.

As many as 1.5 million diabetic patients received treatment in health facilities and the cost of uncomplicated treatment is RM3bil to RM4bil a year, he said in an interview.

Dr Subramaniam said 30,000 people in Malaysia suffered from kidney failure and half of them undergo dialysis.

“Most of those undergoing dialysis are diabetic,” he said.

In the eye ward too, many receiving cataract and laser treatments were diabetic patients, likewise at the orthopaedic ward, many amputations were caused by uncontrolled diabetes, he said.

“If their kidneys fail and they need to undergo dialysis 12 times a month at RM150 per session, it is costly to the individual as well as the Government and NGOs that provide subsidies,” he said.

“What about the loss of income? You cannot go to work three times a week especially if you are self-employed.

“The capacity to generate income drops and children’s education needs are compromised,” he said.

Dr Subramaniam also said the ministry started the Health Commu­nity Empowers Nation (Kospen) grassroots-driven campaign in 2013 to promote healthy living.

In total, 35,000 volunteers had promoted the concept and equipped with test kits to check glucose level, blood pressure and calculate body mass index of 350,000 adults at about 4,000 premises nationwide.

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