Thursday, November 08, 2007

Who Is Profiting From The Rise In Obesity And Diabetes?

This was unbelievable. To see this kind of frankness in a public report just made my jaw drop. Virtually all of the diabetes- and health-related material I've laid my hands on over the years has skirted these issues. Most of those publications, however, were either produced by drug companies directly, or indirectly influenced by them. My non-profit is.

The following is an excerpt from the report I posted yesterday. It was produced by the City University of New York, Campaign Against Diabetes and the Public Health Association of New York City:

Reversing The Diabetes And Obesity Epidemics In New York City: A Call To Action To Confront A Public Health, Economic And Moral Threat To New York City’s Future


Pharmaceutical and Medical Supply Companies

For pharmaceutical companies diabetes is big business. Avandia is one of a number of medications available to treat diabetes. It has been prescribed nearly 60 million times and generates $3 billion a year for its producer, GlaxoSmithKline. Recently published evidence that Avandia increases the risk of heart attack has spurred debate over the drug’s safety and the regulation of pharmaceutical drugs. Similarly, Pfizer’s diabetes drug Rezulin was pulled off the market because it was found to cause liver damage. Drug industry opposition to legislation that would reduce the cost of prescription drugs has meant that many people with diabetes have been unable to afford their medications. Similarly, medical supply companies profit by selling their products to the growing ranks of people with diabetes. “Controlling my condition isn’t that hard,’’ an 82 year old man with diabetes told The New York Times. “The hard parts are the things outside my control, like getting the test strips and the medicines’’.

Insurance Companies

A 2006 investigation by the New York Times points out that most insurance companies refuse to pay small fees for preventive care but do pay for major medical procedures. For example, seeing a podiatrist costs $150 and could prevent a $30,000 amputation. By limiting the diabetes related services they cover, insurance companies do their best not to attract patients with this and other chronic illnesses. By not paying for prevention, these companies are betting that patients with diabetes will have changed insurers by the time the costly complications kick in. Withholding preventive care saves the companies money and forces their competitors and taxpayers to pay for the long-term consequence of this practice.


Hospitals make money by providing expensive procedures that address diabetes complications but not from less expensive preventive services. By charging tens of thousand of dollars for amputations, dialysis, and coronary bypass surgery, hospitals generate income. According to the New York Times investigation of diabetes care in New York City, some local hospitals have opened and subsequently closed diabetes centers because they were so effective at reducing complications they also reduced hospital income.

Food and Beverage Companies

These businesses profit from selling the inexpensive, calorie dense and nutrient poor foods that contribute to growing rates of obesity and diabetes. By saturating our neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces with their products and advertisements, they promote and profit from the over consumption of their products. In addition, our national agricultural policies subsidize the production of key ingredients for their products such as high fructose corn syrup. This helps make their products the cheapest and sweetest calories on the market.

The following was the preface to the above list of social influences:
"If diabetes were mainly the result of individual decisions, some might argue that the inequitable burdens it imposes are unfortunate but “just desserts” for over eating, exercising too little and failing to seek appropriate health care. In our view, however, the current diabetes and obesity epidemics can best be explained by changes in the environment, not individual decisions. In fact, as shown in Figure 6, many in our society have profited by participating in the circumstances that contribute to diabetes. We call attention to those who have gained from the rise in diabetes not to point fingers but rather to fairly apportion responsibility for reversing the epidemic.

To expect individuals to take the main responsibility for stopping diabetes is both ineffective – it doesn’t get at the roots of the problem – and unfair because it blames the victims."
You can read the rest of the report at:

Reversing The Diabetes And Obesity Epidemics In New York City: A Call To Action To Confront A Public Health, Economic And Moral Threat To New York City’s Future

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