Diabetes petition presented to TDs

Calls for reimbursement of innovative device
  • Deborah Condon

A petition calling for the reimbursement of an innovative device for all people with type 1 diabetes, has been presented to TDs at the gates of Leinster House.

Some 18,000 people have signed the petition, which is calling for the reimbursement of the FreeStyle Libre device based on clinical need.

Last January, the Department of Health announced that the HSE would be reimbursing the device for children, teenagers and young adults (aged four to 21), 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 petition, which was delivered to TDs, is calling on the HSE to remove the age barrier criteria, so that this device is available to those who clinically need it the most.

"This is more than just a game changer in diabetes. It empowers us to manage our diabetes better, reducing the number of dangerous low and high glucose levels.

"What frustrates me so much is that the HSE seems to have based its decision not on clinical evidence of improved quality of life, but on cost saving reasons, indicating that anyone with type 1 diabetes over the age of 21 is not worth investing in," commented one of the campaign leaders, Grainne Flynn, who has type 1 diabetes.

All other countries who have reimbursed the FreeStyle Libre have made the device available based on clinical need. Ireland is the only country to have introduced age-related restrictions, and even within this age group, there are further restrictions in place.

According to Donal Gilroy from Sligo, who has lived with type 1 diabetes for 35 years, his health has ‘improved significantly' since using the device.

"I didn't realise that I was having dangerous low blood glucose levels every night at about 3am until I started using the FreeStyle Libre. I rarely woke during these and my long-term health was affected.

"Once we discovered them, myself and my consultant had a fuller picture of how my diabetes was being managed and we were able to address and eliminate the problems. I feel my health has improved significantly since using the Libre - things like not having to finger prick eight times a day and not constantly having sore fingers," he explained.

Ms Flynn emphasised that all people with type 1 diabetes want is for their doctors to have the opportunity to make a decision about the device for their patients based on clinical need, regardless of age.

"It's not a lot to ask," she added.

Ms Flynn is founder of the type 1 diabetes community group, thriveabetes.ie. For more information, click here

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