Background Diabetes mellitus affects almost 10% of U.S. adults, leading to human and financial burden. Underserved populations experience a higher risk of diabetes and related complications resulting from a combination of limited disposable income, inadequate diet, and lack of insurance coverage. Without the requisite resources, underserved populations lack the ability to access healthcare and afford prescription drugs to manage their condition. The aim of this systematic review is to synthesize the findings from cost-effectiveness studies of diabetes management in underserved populations. Methods Original, English, peer-reviewed cost-effectiveness studies of diabetes management in U.S. underserved populations were obtained from 8 databases, and PRISMA 2009 reporting guidelines were followed. Evidence was categorized as strong or weak based on a combination of GRADE and American Diabetes Association guidelines. Internal validity was assessed by the Cochrane methodology. Studies were classified by incremental cost-effectiveness ratio as very cost-effective (ICER≤US$25,000), cost-effective (US $25,000<ICER≤US$50,000), marginally cost-effective (US$50,000<ICER≤US$100,000) or cost-ineffective (ICER>US$100,000). Reporting and quality of economic evaluations was assessed using the CHEERS guidelines and Recommendations of Second Panel for Cost- Effectiveness in Health and Medicine, respectively. Findings Fourteen studies were included. All interventions were found to be cost-effective or very cost-effective. None of the studies reported all 24 points of the CHEERS guidelines. Given the considered cost categories vary significantly between studies, assessing cost-effectiveness across studies has many limitations. Program costs were consistently analyzed, and a third of the included studies (n = 5) only examined these costs, without considering other costs of diabetes care. Interpretation Cost-effectiveness studies are not based on a standardized methodology and present incomplete or limited analyses. More accurate assessment of all direct and indirect costs could widen the gap between intervention and usual care. This demonstrates the urgent need for a more standardized and comprehensive cost-effectiveness framework for future studies.
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