Brisbane woman Rachelle Swan hopes a new government grant for diabetes treatment technology will remove the stigma surrounding the disease.
Most important points:
- A partial federal government grant for continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) technology starts July 1
- CGMs made it unnecessary for type 1 diabetics to undergo painful finger pricks several times a day to get a glucose reading
- dr. Brisbane’s Grant Cracknell says the monitors will make diabetes management easier
Australians with type 1 diabetes can access more affordable continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) technology from today thanks to a government grant.
This grant will save eligible individuals more than $2,000 per year.
Previously, only those with eligible concession cards, teens 21 and under, and women actively planning pregnancy or pregnancy had access to fully subsidized glucose monitoring technology.
Newly eligible participants now only have to pay $32.50 per month to access the technology.
People with type 1 diabetes need to regularly check their glucose levels to make sure they are not too high or too low.
This is traditionally done by painful finger pricks several times a day to obtain a glucose reading.
Wear ‘CGMs with pride’
Ms Swan was 11 when she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and recalled feeling “like I was the only person”.
“I grew up in Townsville and it was almost taboo. I didn’t talk about it,” said the 50-year-old Milton resident.
“My good friends knew, but I wouldn’t take a test at my desk. I’d go to toilets.
“And at the time, I wasn’t really controlling my diabetes.
“With this [CGM] devices allow parents to track their children’s sugar levels.
For the past seven years, Ms. Swan has paid the full cost of a FreeStyle Libre 2 CGM, which costs $92.50 every two weeks, plus shipping.
“I didn’t do it every two weeks. I tried to do it monthly, or every six weeks,” she said.
“It was great not having to take out your meter, clean your finger, poke your finger.
“During a meeting, if I was feeling a little down, or if I had a headache [or] I may be high, I just swipe my phone [the monitor patch] and I could just calmly get some glucose when I had a hypo.
“It definitely saves some time. Sometimes you get a little slack, but the CGM is great, especially with the alarm.”
While she couldn’t quite fathom how the cost savings would affect her life, Ms Swan advised people with type 1 diabetes not to be afraid to talk about the condition.
She also added that they “shouldn’t listen to people’s comments and advice”.
“Work with it, not against it. There’s nothing you can do about this. And with the CGM devices, wear them with pride.”
A ‘step forward’ in managing diabetes
CGMs can upload data to the cloud, making information available to healthcare professionals and family.
Brisbane-based endocrinologist Grant Cracknell was relieved that the grant was finally in.
He said that while the financial aid was “better late than never”, he wanted it available much earlier.
“This technology has been around for a few years and I and my colleagues have worked hard to encourage the government to phase out CGMs,” said Dr. cracknell.
“I think it will be a big step forward in helping people manage their diabetes because there will be no more financial dividing line between those who get their glucose under good control and those who don’t.”
dr. Cracknell said typical symptoms of poorly managed diabetes include damage to the eyes and loss of vision, kidney damage leading to dialysis and loss of sensation in the feet.
He hoped the new grant would create more opportunities to make more and newer diabetes management technology available.
dr. Cracknell also said that while CGMs can be used by people with type 2 diabetes, the latter condition was easier to treat because the pancreas still made some insulin.
The grant did not apply to people with type 2 diabetes and Dr. Cracknell agreed that the cost of subsidizing the technology would be “banned” for those people too.
But he described CGMs and their availability as “almost as important as the discovery of insulin” for the treatment of diabetes, which happened exactly 100 years ago.
There are 26,180 people with type 1 diabetes in Queensland.
Information on how to access the National Diabetes Services Scheme’s CGM grant can be found here beginning July 1.
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