People with diabetes are calling on the federal government to subsidise “life changing” glucose-monitoring systems that remove the need for painful finger pricks.
Children and young adults under 21 with type 1 diabetes currently have subsidised access to Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) devices available through the National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS).
But when people can no longer access CGM devices under the subsidy scheme, they are forced to fork out more than $2000 per year, to continue using the devices.
The system works as a tiny glucose monitor which is worn under the skin and connected to a water-resistant plastic body patch.
Unlike the finger-prick method, people with diabetes can view their eight-hour glucose history, and monitor how their glucose is currently changing.
In July, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten wrote a letter to former prime minster Malcolm Turnbull, urging the federal government to improve access to CGM devices.
“While your government has provided free CGM devices to under 21s, which is welcome, you have not yet matched Labor’s commitment to provide access to other at-risk groups,” Mr Shorten wrote.
Chris Slingsby-Smith, 38, of Brisbane, whose career in the Royal Australian Navy came to a sudden end when he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 14 years ago, said he was prompted to start a change.org petition after his experience with CGM devices.
“For more than 10 years I was finger-pricking to check my glucose levels and not only was this extremely painful and left callouses, it’s also very time consuming and doesn’t give you an eight-hour reading,” Mr Slingsby-Smith told The New Daily.
Mr Slingsby-Smith, who currently use the FreeStyle Libre device said his HbA1c blood reading went from 9.8 to 7.6 within the first two months of using the device.
He said he was calling on the federal government to make CGM devices more accessible to Australians.
“Not everyone can afford this device, so it definitely needs to be subsidised as it’s going to reduce the number of health implications including amputations and loss of eye sight.”
“My biggest issue with this is that young people who can’t afford to use the device when they’ve turned 21 will have to use finger pricks and it’s really inconvenient.”
A Department of Health spokeswoman told The New Daily flash glucose monitoring devices were not subsidised under the CGM initiative as they did not have an alarm functionality that can alert a patient, or their carer, when unsafe blood glucose levels were detected.
She said the Department of Health had undertaken an evaluation of the FreeStyle Libre product to consider its suitability for subsidisation through the NDSS.
“The department provided feedback to the sponsor on the results of the evaluation. The sponsor’s proposed price was not cost effective for taxpayers.”
The spokeswoman said the sponsor had provided a revised submission which was now being assessed by the department.
Michael Cowley, professor and director of the Monash Obesity and Diabetes Institute at Monash University, told The New Daily there were several complications with uncontrolled high blood sugar.
“Type 1 or type 2 diabetes can result in loss of nerve function, loss of vascular function, charcot foot [ulcers in the heels and ankles], amputations, kidney diseases and mortality,” Professor Cowley said.
He said CGM devices were a fantastic innovation.
“We use them in clinical trials and they’ve proven to be very valuable.”
Renza Scibilia, Diabetes Australia spokeswoman, said CGM devices minimised long-term complications
“The fact that these devices allow you to check more frequently reduce the burden for people with diabetes,” Ms Scibilia said.
The Department of Health confirmed more than 9000 Australians with type 1 Diabetes, were benefiting from the CGM initiative.