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Diabetic and High Cholesterol
Many diabetics also battle high cholesterol, but are statins the treatment of choice?
New guidelines from the American Diabetes Association (ADA) call for giving the cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins to all people with diabetes to help prevent heart disease.
But are diabetics at any higher risk for heart disease than anyone else with high cholesterol?
According to Dr. Richard Grant, not necessarily.
“We agree that the decision to start a statin should be based on a patient’s risk,” said Dr. Richard Grant, a research scientist at Kaiser Permanente Division of Research and chairman of the ADA’s professional practice committee.
“It turns out that patients with diabetes have the same risk as people with heart disease, so all of our patients need to be on statins,” he said.
But are statins the only way, or even the best way to treat cholesterol?
According to Dr. Grant, some diabetics may not need statins. Younger, healthier patients and older patients with other medical conditions may not benefit from statins.
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of people with diabetes, Grant said. People with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than people without diabetes, he said.
The increased risk of heart disease in people with diabetes is what was behind the rationale for this year’s recommendations on statins, blood pressure and exercise, according to Grant.
Many people can control their blood pressure and cholesterol with diet and exercise alone. But some people, such as my wife, have high cholesterol as part of their genetic make up. No matter how much she exercises or how closely she watches her diet, she cannot get her cholesterol below 240.
She does take Red Yeast Rice (a natural statin) and fish oil at the suggestion of her doctor. This seems to help but she can’t overcome the genetics.
Treating chronic illnesses can be very costly for retirees. Georgia Medicare Plans works closely with their clients to help them find ways to save money while treating their diabetic condition.
Many type II diabetics can fill their metformin prescription at no charge at select pharmacy’s. Some diabetic supplies (including insulin) are covered under Medicare Part B. A good Medigap plan combined with original Medicare can save you several hundred dollars per year in out of pocket costs.
Medigap carriers will issue coverage to most type II diabetics (as long as you do not have complications associated with the disease) and some type I diabetics. You may even qualify for standard rates.
Switching from brand name drugs can save you anywhere from a few hundred dollars a year to several thousand dollars.
One such example is Glucophage (brand) vs metformin (generic). Most drug plans will not cover a brand name drug if a generic alternative exists. Glucophage will cost you over $1,000 per year at retail with a Medicare Part D plan. Switching to metformin lowers your cost to less than $150 per year and some pharmacy’s make metformin available at no cost.
Actos is another popular diabetic medication. If you are taking Actos and pick a low cost ($15) drug plan from Humana your annual cost for the medication will exceed $6,000 per year. Switching to a more expensive ($70) drug plan will drop your drug costs to $3,000 per year.
While these savings are significant, changing from Actos (brand) to pioglitazone (generic) will not only allow you to pick a lower premium drug plan ($15) but more importantly lowers your annual drug costs to a more respectable $300 per year.
Most agents are willing to help you find ways to save money on your Medicare supplement coverage but few are willing to explore savings on drug plans. We find that most of our clients who bought drug plans without any help are paying more than they need to both in premiums and out of pocket drug costs.
We save our clients $550 per year or more on their Medigap premiums but the savings exceeds $1000 per year on drug costs.
Recently we reviewed drug coverage for one of our clients. They were paying $115 per month for a drug plan and spending $13,000 per year for their medications. A 30 minute review showed them how to cut their premium in half and drop their drug costs to $6,000 per year.
You don’t have to be a diabetic to realize these kind of savings. Your path to saving money begins with a free Georgia Medicare Plan quote.
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