Revealing the Economic Toll of Diabetes Complications: Insights from a Slovenian Health Economics Study

02 May 2024

On April 4, the Slovenian Diabetes Association organised a roundtable event to present the results of a health economics study, exploring the direct expenditure associated with diabetes care. 

The study results underscore a substantial economic burden. More than half the annual direct expenditure incurred by the Institute of Health Insurance of Slovenia (HIIS) was linked to the treatment of diabetes-related complications. 

Led by Prof. Petra Došenović Bonča from the Faculty of Economics in Ljubljana and diabetology specialist Dr. Karmen Janša, the research team collected and analysed data from HIIS databases spanning the period August 2019 to August 2022. Their study is the first comprehensive analysis of the average annual number of people receiving diabetes treatment in Slovenia, and the results have been published in the international journal for health economics, Expert Review of Pharmacoeconomics & Outcomes Research. 

The results indicated that more than half the direct expenditure results from diabetes-related complications. Of the total direct expenditure 33% derive from hospitalisation expenses linked to complications and 24% from medications for managing the condition. The average annual growth rate of direct expenditure for diabetes and its complications stands at 12.5% for the period under review. 

Further analysis shows that the direct annual expenditure by HIIS for diabetes-related health services amounts to €1,108 per person living with diabetes (PwD). The cost of diabetes treatment without complications amounts to €520 per person. However, when complications occur, costs escalate significantly, ranging from an additional €277 per person for eye complications to €4,385 per person for kidney complications. 

Researchers forecast a 19.2% increase in diabetes-related expenditure as a percentage of GDP by 2030, a trend anticipated to persist until 2050. 

During the event, Dr. Janša, commented: “The results align with our previous assessments, though I expected complications to constitute a higher percentage. Nonetheless, this underscores the urgency of proactive measures.” 

Health economics studies play a key role in informing policy decisions. Mojca Gobec, from the Slovenian Ministry of Health, emphasised the importance of the study in guiding future policy measures, particularly in addressing disparities in healthcare access across Slovenia. 

Reflecting on the study’s implications, Prof. Tadej Battelino, IDF Europe Chair-Elect and specialist in paediatrics and endocrinology, highlighted the importance of prevention for easing the economic burden of diabetes-related complications, advocating for a shift towards proactive care and early intervention. 

In conclusion, this study serves as a clarion call for concerted efforts to mitigate the economic impact of diabetes through preventive measures, targeted interventions, proactive management and equitable access to care.

Key policy recommendations include the need to promote healthy lifestyles across all age groups, bolster diabetes prevention and early detection programmes, and empower PwD.