ADVANCES in technology have helped to change the lives of people living with Type 1 diabetes, but without government funding, some treatment options remain unaffordable for many patients, a local expert says.
Dr Claire Morbey, an endocrinologist at the Hunter Diabetes Centre in Merewether, said new technologies such as insulin pumps were making it much easier for people with Type 1 diabetes to manage their disease.
But at $10,000 a pop, and ongoing costs, the new technology was not an option that every patient could afford.
“Diabetes is very unsexy,” Dr Morbey said.
“It has been left in the shadows for a long time, and where the money for diabetes goes is with the kids. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation gets a lot of money.
“But what happens to people who have had it for 50 or 60 years who do have the complications, who do have trouble managing their diabetes? There is this big black hole.”
Thanks to a patient assistance program being offered by insulin pump company Medtronic, Dr Moreby was able to secure a complimentary “MiniMed” for one of her patients, David Pike.
Dr Morbey said many patients, particularly those without private health insurance, could just not afford to buy the pumps that would improve their quality of life.
Mr Pike, and fellow Hunter Diabetes Centre patient Gai Hartwell, said the technology had come a long way since they were first diagnosed.
Mrs Hartwell, who has had the disease for almost 60 years, said she had gone from sharpening her needles on an oil stone, testing her sugar levels with test tubes and bunsen burners, and eating the same foods in the same amounts every day, to now having her insulin drip-fed to her consistently throughout the night and day by her new pump.
The technology had stopped her lapsing into comas while she slept.
“Having Type 1 diabetes is like jail, you are a slave to it,” Mrs Hartwell said.
“I’m fairly new on the pump, but I can see it’s going to be an absolute dream. I am broke. Absolutely broke. The ongoing costs are unbelievable.
“The healthier we stay without having to have amputations, without going blind, without getting gangrene or having kidney failure – that added expense on the government would be saved if people could have better access to these pumps.”
Dr Morbey said many of her patients closely guarded their precious pumps.
“Our older patients, who have had to go through all of this in the past, really know and appreciate what a difference this technology makes, and they guard them with their life,” Dr Morbey said.