Can adverse economic circumstances have a negative impact in the glycemic control of patients with diabetes?

Can adverse economic circumstances have a negative impact in the glycemic control of patients with diabetes? Mounting evidence suggests that this may be the case (1, 2). A recently published cross-sectional study identified food insecurity and cost-related medication underuse as unmet basic needs that were independently associated with poor diabetes control (1). Although associations between diabetes-related complications (e.g., lower extremity amputations or acute cardiovascular events) and specific material need insecurities were not investigated in this study, the data presented by Berkowitz and collaborators suggests that patients with diabetes struggling with financial burdens could be particularly vulnerable to this disease and may need a higher use of health care resources (1). Clearly, there are no simple solutions for these social problems that require the implementation of population-based strategies that go well beyond the scope and limits of public health. So, what can we do as clinicians? Certainly activism to end poverty, build prosperity, and advocate for universal health coverage would be welcomed. Also, we can recognize that the principles of minimally disruptive medicine offer opportunities that are particularly valuable in populations with limited financial capacity. Excessively demanding treatment plans in patients with diabetes and other associated chronic comorbidities – that include the use of multiple costly medications and unnecessarily investigations – can lead to the disruption of patients’ wellbeing, poor treatment adherence, and eventually the development of negative outcomes (3). In patients struggling with material need insecurities we should expect some limitations in their capacity, and therefore, it is in this group that health care should be the least disruptive as possible.

Oscar L. Morey-Vargas MD
Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Nutrition Fellow
Mayo Clinic, Rochester


  1. Berkowitz SA, Meigs JB, DeWalt D, Seligman HK, Barnard LS, Bright OM, Schow M, Atlas SJ, Wexler DJ. Material Need Insecurities, Control of Diabetes Mellitus, and Use of Health Care Resources: Results of the Measuring Economic Insecurity in Diabetes JAMA Intern Med. 2014 Dec 29. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.6888.
  2. Ngo-Metzger Q, Sorkin DH, Billimek J, Greenfield S, Kaplan SH. The effects of financial pressures on adherence and glucose control among racial/ethnically diverse patients with diabetes. J Gen Intern Med. 2012;27(4):432-437.
  3. May C, Montori VM, Mair FS. We need minimally disruptive medicine. BMJ. 2009 Aug 11;339:b2803. doi: 10.1136/bmj.b2803.