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.”