Province extends insulin pump coverage

Residents of BC up to 25 years old who require an insulin pump for managing Type 1 diabetes will now be covered by Pharmacare.

Young people in the province who live with Type 1 diabetes got some welcome news recently from the Ministry of Health that may make their lives a bit easier.

Last week, Health Minister Terry Lake announced that British Columbians up to 25 years old, who require an insulin pump to manage their Type 1 diabetes would now be covered by B.C. PharmaCare.

“The need to constantly balance insulin doses with food and activities can be a challenge for anyone with diabetes, especially young British Columbians,” said Lake in a media release. “For some, an insulin pump provides stability and better monitoring. Expanding coverage to include young adults will help offset financial costs for many families.”

Up until the announcement PharmaCare would only cover insulin pumps for people 18 years old and younger who met the criteria for reimbursement of the pumps and supplies, the new changes mean that those from 19 to 25 will also be eligible for up to $6,600 to help defray the costs of using the newer technology.

“We’re delighted that 19 to 25 year olds will have access to funding for insulin pumps,” said Sue Taylor, regional director, B.C. and Yukon, for the Canadian Diabetes Association, told the Trail Times on Wednesday.

“Hopefully, in the not too distant future there will be no age limit on the funding.

“The pump provides a better quality of life for people,” she explained.

“Better control over their insulin levels and better control means fewer complications such as kidney failure, heart attack, stroke, blindness, and depression.”

One of the advantages the insulin pump has over injections via syringe, or “pen” as it is more commonly referred to, is in its versatility to alter insulin levels more quickly to suit an individual’s lifestyle and circumstances.

“Based on the evidence, the main advantage of the pump is its ability to be more nuanced in how the insulin is delivered into the blood stream, more like the pancreas,” said Dr. Maureen Clement, a diabetes specialist and co-chair of diabetes strategy for Interior Health. “The pumps do it better. Some come with the ability of continuous blood glucose monitoring and can adjust the levels on insulin delivered throughout the day.”

Using a pump that, essentially, contains its own microcomputer and control system can also have the advantage of working out some of the complicated calculations necessary to determine the amount of insulin needed based on the amount of insulin in your blood, the amount of carbohydrates in the food to be eaten, and other factors.

In spite of some of the advantages some people still prefer the pen injection method over pumps.

“It is a good option but it’s not for everyone,” said Dr. Clement. “It is attached to you and some people object to that, if you’re skiing or mountain climbing or work crawling through pipes it might be uncomfortable, but I haven’t really heard a lot of that.”

Ultimately, both Taylor and Dr. Clement reiterated that one of the main advantages to the insulin pump is that it can lead to better management of an individual’s life with diabetes and reduce the future costs that come with medical complications that can arise from poor management.

“Eighty per cent of the cost to society of diabetes is through dealing with complications,” Taylor said. “If people get the tools and the medications they need for better treatment and can manage their diabetes better, they can live longer, healthier lives, with fewer complications.”