Petition calls for diabetes equality

Access to innovative device restricted
  • Deborah Condon

Over 16,000 people have signed an online petition calling for the reimbursement of an innovative device for all people with type 1 diabetes.

In January, the Department of Health announced that the HSE would be reimbursing the FreeStyle Libre device for children and teenagers, but with some restrictions. Adults would not be reimbursed at all.

This announcement was met with anger by the type 1 diabetes community as these restrictions mean that thousands of people are being denied free access to this technology.

The FreeStyle Libre consists of a small round sensor - about the size of a two euro coin - which is worn on the back of the upper arm for up to 14 days. A handheld reader is scanned over the sensor to upload glucose results. This takes less than one second and there is no need to draw blood. As a result, it does away with the need for finger pricking.

The device has been described as a 'game changer' by many, however, the cost can be prohibitive. The starter kit costs €169.90, which includes two 14-day sensors to cover the first month. After that, each 14-day sensor costs €59.90, so almost €120 per month.

There are around 20,000 people with Type 1 diabetes in Ireland, including around 2,750 children under the age of 16. Anyone wishing to use the FreeStyle Libre, who is not eligible for reimbursement, has to pay privately for it.

The reimbursement scheme is so restrictive that only a small percentage of children will be included and 17,000 adults will be excluded because of their age.

The national charity, Diabetes Ireland, has said that it is extremely disappointed that the device is not being made available to every one with type 1 diabetes based on their clinical need.

"We are very much aware of the many disappointed adults who currently pay up to €120 a month for this device and have seen much improvement in their health and quality of life from using it daily over the past 12 months.

"A lot of these adults were encouraged to get the device by their diabetes team based on their clinical need and on the basis that it would eventually be reimbursed by the HSE, as it is in the UK and many other countries," the charity noted.

The petition, entitled 'Equality for all People with Diabetes' was created by diabetes advocate, Davina Lyons. Over 16,000 people have signed it so far.

Meanwhile, further information from the HSE issued recently in response to a Parliamentary Question by Fianna Fail TD, Mary Butler, which sets out the eligibility criteria for the reimbursement scheme, has only led to more confusion.

The HSE describes six criteria, but does not state if people have to fulfill all of these. If this is the case, only a very small group of people would be eligible to be reimbursed. The criteria are:
-Type 1 Diabetes
-Children and young adults aged 4 - 21 years
-Patient using multiple daily injections of insulin or insulin pump therapy
-Patients who have increased blood glucose testing requirements (≥8 times daily)
-Frequent episodes of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) or hypoglycaemia, which have included hospital admissions
-Patient is not pregnant

According to Dr Anna Clarke, Health Promotion and Research Manager with Diabetes Ireland, the charity firmly believes that "everyone with diabetes using insulin should have access to the technology that best supports them to manage their condition most effectively on a daily basis".

"We have campaigned to have the FreeStyle Libre made available on the Long Term Illness Scheme for all patients using insulin based on their clinical need and we will continue to do so," she added.


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