Diabetic ketoacidosis more widespread in the US than Canada

Diabetic ketoacidosis is more prevalent in the U.S. than it is in Canada, according to a joint analysis from Harvard Medical School, the Cambridge Health Alliance, City University of New York and the University of Manitoba.

Ketoacidosis—a potentially fatal complication of diabetes that stems from abnormally high blood sugar levels—sends nearly 190,000 patients to the ICU every year, Adam Gaffney, a Harvard professor and critical care physician at Cambridge Health, wrote in The Washington Post May 8. Most of those patients are treated with success, but hundreds still die because of a lack of access to affordable insulin.

Gaffney and his colleagues collaborated with a team in Canada to compare rates of diabetic ketoacidosis between the U.S. and a country with universal healthcare. The researchers focused on the transition from adolescence to young adulthood—a period when many young people change or lose their health coverage.

The hospitalization rate for ketoacidosis among kids and adolescents was slightly higher in the U.S. than in Canada, but when Gaffney et al. looked at the transition from adolescence to young adulthood, the rate of ketoacidosis rose 90% in the U.S. and just 23% in Manitoba.

Gaffney said the disparity likely has something to do with rising uninsured rates among young adults in the U.S., as well as high out-of-pocket costs and unaffordable drugs. In addition, he said, the majority of Americans don’t have stability in their health coverage.

“Of the various healthcare reform proposals under discussion today, only one—single-payer, ‘Medicare-for-all’—would do so: It would cover all the insured, basically eliminate financial barriers to care such as copays and deductibles, and bring to an end the dangerous disruptions of coverage that are so common in our fragmented system,” Gaffney wrote. “This is one reason that I, like so many in the medical profession, support it.”

Read the full piece from the Post below: