Diabetes Association lobbies P.E.I. to fund insulin pumps

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Group says province could save nearly $500,000 if it helps type-one diabetics' therapy

Anthony Millar, volunteer with the Candian Diabetes Association, and Lisa Matte, the association's regional director, say the government can save money by investing in insulin pumps.

The Canadian Diabetes Association wants P.E.I. to spend more health-care money now to help save money later.

It hosted MLAs in Charlottetown recently to lobby for government funding of insulin pumps.

Pumps are a form of technology a diabetic person wears all the time. The mini device delivers a continuous low level of insulin, like a healthy pancreas would, through a tube that ends in a teflon or steel tube inserted under the skin.

The tip, or cannula, remains under the skin for up to three days before the site needs to be changed. The person wearing the device presses buttons to deliver extra insulin whenever they plan to eat.

Each time the infusion site is changed, a whole new set of sterile tubing must be used, so operating costs are high. The pumps themselves can cost more than $5,000.

Pump manufacturers claim better blood sugar control using pumps compared to traditional syringe injections.

The association says it has a report that shows how P.E.I. could save up to $470,000 by 2032 if it helped pay for insulin pump therapy for type-one diabetics. The savings would come through improved health in those patients.

“The (report) shows that switching from daily insulin injections to an insulin pump can reduce complications and increase the quality of life for people living with type-one diabetes while, at the same time, save P.E.I.’s health-care system almost half a million dollars over the next 20 years,” says the association.

While there are more than 13,000 people living with diabetes on P.E.I., most have what is known as type-two diabetes and the industry has yet to generate widespread acceptance of pump therapy for those people.

This proposed insulin pump program would be aimed only at the nearly 650 people on P.E.I. who have type-one diabetes.

Almost all of them were diagnosed as infants or children. In order to live, all type-one diabetics must inject insulin every day, one way or another.

“People living with type-one diabetes are at a high risk of developing serious long-term complications, such as kidney failure, heart attack, and limb amputation,” said Lisa Matte, regional director for the Canadian Diabetes Association.

P.E.I. is one of only two provinces that does not support some kind of insulin pump program, says the association.

“Prince Edward Islanders living with type-one diabetes who use insulin pumps face among the highest out-of-pocket costs for people with diabetes across Canada,” says the association.

“At almost $5,700 annually, costs for Islanders are consistently above the national average.”

“Since I started using an insulin pump, I feel like I have total control over my life, whereas before the pump, I felt like the disease was controlling my life,” says Anthony Millar of Tyne Valley.

“Having an insulin pump is beneficial to me, thanks to my fiancée’s medical insurance. I wouldn’t know what to do if I ever had to go back to injections again.”

Health Minister Doug Currie says he met with members of the association recently and heard their request for pump therapy funding.

“We have made a lot of inroads in diabetes care in terms of medication and education but currently the province doesn’t fund the pumps,” said Currie. “We will take the report and the information and certainly look at it.

“There are all kinds of competing demands on the health-care budget, on a weekly and daily basis. Our only commitment right now is that we will look at the cost of insulin pumps and the number of Islanders that require them. That will be put into the budgetary process, moving into the spring, and we will look at it from there. It all has to be costed out.”

“Working together, we can make a difference,” said Matte.

“Investing into a publicly funded insulin pump program makes sense both for the health of Islanders and the sustainability of the province’s health-care system.”

Organizations: Canadian Diabetes Association, Islanders

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Canada, Tyne Valley

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Recent comments

  • jai
    December 30, 2012 - 22:01

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  • Bill Kays
    Bill Kays
    December 29, 2012 - 13:38

    Let's face the facts. Until you remove the profit motive from the health care system people will continue to suffer physically and financially. It should be illegal to profit from someone's misery but it is actually encouraged here in Canada by the failed government's policies to protect us from the ones profiting from our illness and disease. Some might go so far as to say that they intentionally cause some of this suffering. There are 2 health care systems in Canada. Private and public. The private system is for those who can afford to pay and then there is the public system for the rest of us cannon fodder. The public system was set up to fail from the beginning. Either we do or we do not have socialized medicine, which is it? The gov should be paying for all associated costs of disease.

  • adophus
    December 29, 2012 - 07:32

    No, upwester - you are only going by the fact that you know nothing about diabetes,do not have a family member who is afflicted by it, nor do you have it yourself.

    • ADOPHUS -
      December 29, 2012 - 12:24

      Guess what Kreskin---Your crystal ball lied to you. I'm diabetic, three members of my family are diabetic and my mother died with diabetes.Does that qualify me to comment.Try sticking to the issue instead of personal attacks that show your ignorance.

  • ParentOfTypeOne
    December 28, 2012 - 15:02

    There is always something better for the government to be spending money on in someones eyes. As a parent of young type one diabetic I think this is a fantastic idea! We are working closely with our Doctor and the diabeties team to have our brave son on an insulin pump in the near future. I haven't looked into what our coverage will do for this, but not everyone has coverage or has enough coverage to cover these items. As for the strips its great to have help their, but they are only for monitoring your sugars, their are many other items/instrument required to manage diabetes.

  • TypeOneDiabetic
    December 28, 2012 - 12:11

    To UPWESTER: As a person living with Type 1 Diabetes, there are some main differences between the two types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is not preventable or delayed. It happens without any notice, where a lot (not all) cases of Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed with prevention and management. I have an insulin pump and have noticed phenomenal changes in my lifestyle and control. The money that the government would save in direct/indirect costs makes it worth while. Yes, test strips covered for people living with diabetes is great, but the smile on parents faces knowing that their kids are going to live more healthy lives being on a pump is worth every penny. If you would like I'd love to sit down with you and educate you on diabetes. Or you can go visit www.diabetes.ca .

      December 28, 2012 - 15:25

      I appreciate the differences of the two and I wouldn't have a problem giving juveniles an insulin pump, but as adults, we should be able to supply our own.

    December 28, 2012 - 10:59

    The association says it has a report that shows how P.E.I. could save up to $470,000 by 2032 if it helped pay for insulin pump therapy for type-one diabetics. The savings would come through improved health in those patients. I would like to see how they arrived at their figures. Even so, to fund all type 1 diabetics, it would cost $3,250,000. Dollars to save $23,500 a year,that doesn't make economic sense.Dollars can be better spent in other areas.Why not pay for test strips for type 11 diabetics, like they do for type 1? Why do we have 2 classes of diabetics?

    • J R
      December 28, 2012 - 12:05

      New Brunswick has a similar program, for under age 19 people with diabetes. Considering their are more people in NB, and their program costs less than 1 million, it is unlikely the PEI version would cost more.

      December 28, 2012 - 15:20

      I'm only going by the story. There are 650 type 1 diabetics and the cost per pump is $5000. plus. That works out to $3.25 Million.