By Rosalind Lucier and Alia Rizvon
Survey data shows the devastating economic and health effects of COVID-19 on the diabetes community.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of us in different ways – some people have lost their jobs, others have had to navigate being sick or caring for sick family members, and still others have struggled with food insecurity and paying for medications. Sadly, new data released by leading diabetes research company dQ&A and the American Diabetes Association (ADA) found that people living with diabetes have suffered a greater economic impact as a result of the pandemic than the average person in the United States.
According to the survey, the unemployment rate for people with diabetes is much higher at 18% than the national rate at 12%. In addition, one third of people with diabetes have lost some or all of their income. This number is even higher for people with diabetes who need the most support – one in two low-income individuals with diabetes have lost some or all of their income. And finally, for self-employed people with diabetes, the number of individuals who have lost income jumps to a shocking seven out of ten people. These staggering unemployment statistics mean that many people and their families are struggling to afford basic necessities right now.
There is not yet agreement on why we are seeing these extreme economic hardships in communities with diabetes. What we do know, however, is that these economic challenges have prevented many people from being able to afford their life-saving insulin or other diabetes medications. One in four people has turned to rationing their diabetes care. This could mean anything from skipping insulin injections to foregoing blood glucose tests in order to avoid the expense.
These striking data were presented by Richard Wood to the Congressional Diabetes Caucus in Washington. Many people with diabetes work in jobs that cannot be done from home and require them to interact with other people. If you must leave home to work, try to stay as safe as possible; diabetes is one of the top risk factors for severe COVID-19 infections. This data shows that more protection is needed for people with diabetes, many of whom are essential workers.
If you are facing financial difficulty, you should not ration your supplies or medications, as this can have dangerous consequences for your health. Instead, see if you may be eligible for a patient assistance program. Many companies – including Dexcom, Sanofi, and Novo Nordisk – have responded to the COVID-19 crisis by launching assistance programs that provide diabetes medications and supplies for free or at a lower price to people who are not insured. You can ask your healthcare team to discuss additional options. The CDC recommends that you do not change your medication or your dosage without first talking to your healthcare professional; continuing your regular medication dosing will keep you healthier and put you at lower risk for severe COVID-19 complications.
For more ways to get affordable medication, including insulin, check out our articles.
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