When Hannah Wilson was two years old she was diagnosed with type one diabetes, and from then had her blood sugar checked by a finger prick an average of ten times a day.
There is an alternative, the continuous glucose monitor (CGM), but this device and the sensors that it reads are not funded by Pharmac.
The initial outlay for a monitor is around $100 but it is the sensors, also priced around $100 and requiring replacement every 14 days, that some families cannot afford.
“Knowing we should be funding a CGM but couldn’t afford it has been horrible,” says Hannah’s mother Sonia. “The hardest part is nights, waking your little child up for a finger prick.”
Sonia is the teacher aid for Tate Deans, a six-year-old who was diagnosed two years ago. He recently started using a CGM and Sonia says it makes a huge difference at school.
“I can just walk past him to check his levels, I don’t have to get him to wash his hands and then prick his finger. It has really minimised the disruption to his schooling,” says Sonia.
Because type one diabetes is diagnosed in young people, long term complications including increased risk of amputation, stroke, and blindness, and even death can occur when they are much younger, than those with type two diabetes. Chances of complications increase for those who do not have good control of their blood sugar levels.
“People get burnt out testing several times a day. It causes a lot of distress. It’s always front and foremost in their mind and if they don’t test they don’t know what is happening to their blood sugar levels,” says diabetes nurse Liz Dutton.
CGMs measure blood glucose levels continuously through the day and give more data which lead to more appropriate doses of insulin, which in turn leads to more stable blood glucose and decreased risk of complications.
“Funding CGM’s and their sensors will cost the government, but complications from the consequences of not having sensors is already, and will continue to, cost the government,” says Sonia.
Tate’s mother, Diabetes Youth Nelson branch coordinator Amanda Deans, says discrepancies in outcome shouldn’t be income-ased, but they currently are.
Those who can afford CGM’s have a method of reducing the risk of complications that is not available to those who can’t afford them.
Diabetes New Zealand has a petition into Parliament asking them to urge Pharmac to fund the CGM’s.
Hannah was recently awarded a scholarship and is using the money to take a year off finger pricking by using a CGM. She loves the freedom it brings her as she embarks on her nursing training.