Forum: Cost of diabetes, kidney failure

A woman getting her blood sugar level checked. Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health Amrin Amin said it will take years before both the overall incidence of diabetes and its complication rate decrease.
A woman getting her blood sugar level checked. Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health Amrin Amin said it will take years before both the overall incidence of diabetes and its complication rate decrease.PHOTO: AFP

The cost of diabetes to Singapore is expected to soar beyond $2.5 billion with the rising number of diabetics (Parliament: 19,000 diagnosed with diabetes yearly, more expected to be diagnosed in short term, says MOH, Feb 27).

Many people think of diabetes as simply an issue of high sugar levels, and so do not take it seriously.

This eventually leads to uncontrolled and poorly managed diabetes, which is a major cause of kidney failure, blindness and amputations in Singapore. Diabetes remains the main cause of kidney failure, up from 63.3 per cent in 2008 to 67.1 per cent in 2017. As of the end of 2017, there were more than 7,000 dialysis patients in Singapore.

Almost 70 per cent of the National Kidney Foundation's (NKF) newly admitted patients in 2018 were due to diabetes. The disease burden and financial impact from diabetes are significant as dialysis is expensive. The yearly dialysis treatment cost alone amounts to $25,000 per patient, not to mention other medical costs and opportunity cost when a patient loses his job. Dialysis patients, more often than not, have had to quit their jobs or reduce their work hours or responsibilities after starting on dialysis.

As a result, they are burdened with disabling self-doubt and financial stress, and greater psychological problems such as anxiety, depression and loss of self-esteem may manifest. Besides quality care and medication, psychosocial care also plays an important role in a patient's rehabilitation journey, and the lack of it can be impoverishing.

While NKF continues to support the Government in its war on diabetes, there is also a need to illustrate and emphasise the cost burden of kidney failure on an individual level, physically and psychosocially.

Though managing diabetes is not easy, we must continue to strive and persevere in our attempt to fight against kidney failure.

Anyone who would like to know more about kidney disease prevention can call the NKF hotline on 1800-KIDNEYS (1800-543-6397), or visit www.nkfs.org

Tim Oei

Chief Executive Officer

The National Kidney Foundation

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 29, 2020, with the headline 'Cost of diabetes, kidney failure'. Print Edition | Subscribe