Diabetic nurse pleads for Federal aid to pay for sensors

Julie-Anne Watson showing a continuous glucose monitoring sensor to Armadale MLA Tony Buti and Burt Labor candidate Matt Keogh.
Julie-Anne Watson showing a continuous glucose monitoring sensor to Armadale MLA Tony Buti and Burt Labor candidate Matt Keogh.

AN Armadale nurse who has type one diabetes is calling on the Federal Government to help pay for the cost of blood glucose monitoring sensors so that she can have a healthy baby.

Julie-Anne Watson, 36, has been using a continuous glucose monitor since last November. She is hooked up to an insulin pump to help stabilise her readings so that she can be in the best possible health for when she gets pregnant.

“I want a child and I need to get my blood sugars really, really good,” she said.

“The longer you keep it even, the safer it is for the child.

“But the sensors are costing me a lot of money, it’s hard.”

Ms Watson, who has had type one diabetes for 23 years, is having to fork out more than $2250 a year to pay for the sensors that are needed to monitor her blood sugar levels.

The sensors, which cost her $50 each, last for just six days and transmit data to a continuous glucose monitor.

The device alerts her when she is about to have hypoglycemic (when her levels go too low) – or hyperglycemic (too high) – episodes.

“You get blood sugar readings 24 hours a day compared to four finger pricks,” Ms Watson said.

“It gives you a warning when your blood sugar is dropping so when it gets low you can slow the insulin flow down so you might prevent a hypo.

“It also flashes up a message saying ‘I have type one diabetes’ so if someone finds you in the street they know what is happening.”

The Federal Government provides direct support to people with diabetes through the subsidy of essential medicines under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and diabetes products through the National Diabetes Services Scheme.

But Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley said last week that CGM devices and sensors were not currently available for subsidy under the NDSS.

“In a one-off assessment one particular CGM device was not demonstrated to be cost-effective at the price offered,” Ms Ley said.

She said the Federal Government was always willing to look at new products as they become available.

“However there is currently no formal way for assessing the clinical and cost-effectiveness of new technologies, such as CGM sensors, for inclusion on the NDSS.

Ms Watson has taken her campaign to Armadale MLA Tony Buti and Labor candidate for Burt Matt Keogh.

Mr Buti said he would be lobbying WA Health Minister Kim Hames and said helping people to pay for the cost of the sensors would be a sensible preventative health measure.

“There is no doubt there is incredible stress on the health budget and it’s only getting bigger,” he said.

“But I think they’ve got to look at things that will in the end make the system cheaper because if people don’t look after themselves they end up in hospital which is the most expensive place and is the main impost of the health budget.”

Mr Keogh suggested that the Federal Government could look at ordering sensors in bulk to help bring the cost down.

“If the government was able to bring that volume purchasing to bear then we may be able to get a much better deal,” he said.

“I can’t make any commitments but I think it is something that we should look at for sure.”

In 2014-15 expenditure on medicines for diabetes through the PBS and the Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, such as insulin, was over $526 million and expenditure on products for diabetes supplied through the NDSS was over $185 million.

This is on top of the $35 million commitment to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Clinical Research Network to help find a cure for juvenile diabetes.