Is Bariatric Surgery in Diabetics Cost-Effective?

Bariatric surgery has emerged as an effective approach to reducing body weight and improving obesity-related complications, especially for patients living with diabetes. The surgery has been shown to significantly reduce weight over time. Recent research also indicates that bariatric surgery may provide benefits to people with diabetes in addition to sustained weight loss. Among severely obese patients with diabetes, bariatric surgery has been associated with aiding in reductions in A1C, allowing many patients to stop taking diabetes medications. Data suggest that bariatric surgery is a successful long-term treatment of obesity for people with diabetes, but it’s important to remember that these procedures are expensive. Studies have shown that the average cost of bariatric surgery exceeds $13,000, and that doesn’t include additional costs that may ensue in the months following surgery. Consequently, evidence on the cost-effectiveness of bariatric surgery is needed. A New Cost-Effective Analysis In the September 2010 issue of Diabetes Care, my colleagues and I conducted a study to estimate the cost-effectiveness of bariatric surgery among severely obese patients with diabetes. We wanted to assess whether bariatric surgery reduces A1C and other risk factors enough to lower diabetes complications and improve quality of life. We estimated costs, quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs), and cost-effectiveness of bariatric surgeries relative to usual diabetes care for severely obese individuals who were newly diagnosed with diabetes and for those with established diabetes. “Gastric bypass and gastric banding were cost-effective methods of reducing mortality and diabetes complications in severely obese adults with diabetes.” In all of our analyses, bariatric surgery increased QALYs and increased costs. Gastric bypass surgery had cost-effectiveness ratios of $7,000 per QALY for...