Why should you care about access to insulin pumps?

Three weeks ago, I was asked to start a petition in support of removing age restrictions on the current insulin pump program here in Newfoundland and Labrador. It seemed like a great idea. As an advocate, I know the value of public support for a cause. This was an ideal way to raise awareness of the issue.

That was three weeks ago. Today, I am amazed by the response. We now have well over 550 virtual signatures and most of those come from people living in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The online support is amazing. I can’t begin to describe the feeling when I see a steady stream of emails telling me that Karen, Kristen, Kevin, John, and Scott have all just signed the petition only to go back to my mail two hours later and see that Anne, Stewart, James, and Paula also signed. These aren’t just people who I have tormented and harassed until they signed. These are people who you have shared the petition with and they wanted to sign.

In case that wasn’t moving enough, I have also been following along with the “reasons why” people support the petition. There are many people who state that they are signing for their friend, their mother, their brother, their daughter. One father writes that he is living with diabetes and that his children deserve to have him around for a lot longer. I have read of people having to use older pumps and are praying that they will hold out because they can’t afford a replacement and no longer qualify for provincial assistance. The comment from Matthew truly said it all “Diabetes on insulin pump in a few months it is going to be gone because of this”. I have read every single comment and each one motivates me to continue. They motivate me to keep sharing the message.

I know that some people are thinking, “well I don’t have diabetes and this really is sad but why do I really care? They can still live so what’s the big deal? We can’t always get what we want.” The big deal is that many people living with Type 1 diabetes would be healthier and more productive if they had the option of using an insulin pump. If they were healthier and happier, they would probably have fewer sick days off from work. If they had fewer sick days, they would be earning more money and paying more personal income tax. If they are paying more taxes then that is more money in the provincial coffers to cover things like education, transportation, and health care.

Now those same people are probably thinking, “but there people were the ones draining the health care budget to start with. Where is the benefit there?” Well the benefit is in the fact that an insulin pump, especially when used with a Continuous Glucose Monitor, has been shown to improve diabetes control. Improved diabetes control equates to a significant reduction in diabetes related complications such as kidney failure, heart disease and lower limb amputations. People using intensive diabetes management through insulin pump therapy are less likely to be hospitalized during the year (one hospitalization for diabetic ketoacidosis for example will cost over $20,000 per admittance and the average person with diabetes may be hospitalized four times per year).

To further illustrate the benefits of an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor, let’s consider the fact that studies have shown that people living with diabetes often begin to exhibit signs of complications after living with the disease for 15-20 years (my 16 year old son has seen living with diabetes for over 14 years already). Approximately 25% of those people will develop kidney disease and require hemo-dialysis which costs approximately $263.000 per year. Those people on hemo-dialysis will most likely only live for another 8 years but during that time they will have cost the health care system over $2 million. Ironically $2 million is the projected cost of removing the age restriction from the NL insulin pump program. This means that if you save eight people with diabetes from kidney failure each year, you will have funded the entire insulin pump program.

Kidney failure is not the only medical issue that people with diabetes must fear. 2% of people with diabetes will be blind after 15 years. They are 83% more likely to experience cardiovascular disease than their cohorts and the list goes on as do the health care costs (or savings if everyone had access to improved technology).

The benefits of insulin pump therapy and the use of continuous glucose monitors have been well documented over the years. The improvement in quality of life as well as overall health for people living with diabetes cannot be disputed. In a country standing at the forefront of medical research and innovation, access to insulin pumps, continuous glucose monitors, and their supplies should not be limited to the very rich or the very well insured.

Please sign and share the petition and continue to raise awareness about this issue. http://chn.ge/RRGWDX
NL pump petition

One thought on “Why should you care about access to insulin pumps?”

  1. Great blog, Barb, but I think your figures for the cost of kidney dialysis and treatment for DKA are too high. Are they American? Treatment of people who collapse from low blood glucose episodes and have to be transported to hospital and treated also add up to a pretty penny.

    I’d also like to point out that many wonderful Newfoundlanders might have type 1 diabetes or even be a type 2 on insulin or a pregnant woman needing insulin. If they do not have private benefits they may have to leave the province to go somewhere else where they may obtain public health benefits or private extended health benefits for insulin pump therapy. The other jurisdiction will benefit from their talents not Newfoundland and Labrador.

    The offspring of women with type 1 or gestational diabetes also can have many,many costly handicaps. Giving people the tools for better diabetes management is essential.

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