3 December 2018

Canberra widens access to continuous glucose monitors

Clinical Diabetes Women

The government has now made continuous glucose monitors cheaply available to women with type 1 diabetes who are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant. 

So far, nearly 9500 people have gained access to the devices under the NDSS. Although up until now, they were only available to children and young adults under the age of 21. 

From March 1, more patients will have access to fully subsidised glucose monitoring devices, which now include the new FreeStyle Libre Flash glucose monitoring system as well. 

Around 37,000 Australians will be affected by these changes and could see individual savings of up to $7000 annually. 

Others eligible for the devices include: breastfeeding women with type 1 diabetes, children with rare conditions such as cystic fibrosis-related diabetes or neonatal diabetes, and people with type 1 diabetes who get recurrent, severe hypoglycaemia or have other significant clinical needs and have a concession card. 

Experts say access to continuous glucose monitoring could greatly improve the health of mothers and their unborn babies. 

“The tighter the control, especially in the early weeks of pregnancy, minimises the risk of congenital anomalies and as the pregnancy progresses, reduces the rates of macrosomia and other perinatal complications, such as pre-eclampsia,” Melbourne obstetrician Professor Jeremy Oats said.

Diabetes groups have welcomed the $100 million earmarked for the expansion of access to these sometimes lifesaving devices, saying they can help reduce both hypoglycaemic events and psychological toll they have. 

“We are confident that this initiative will improve the lives and give peace of mind to thousands of Australians with type 1 diabetes,” Professor Greg Johnson, Diabetes Australia CEO, said in a statement. 

In addition, continuous glucose monitoring has the added advantage of replacing frequent and painful finger-prick checks. The patient wears a sensor, inserted under the skin on their arm or stomach to measure glucose levels in the interstitial fluid. 

The device sends blood glucose readings to the patient’s phone and an alarm will sound if levels get dangerously high or low. 

 “This improves their health in the short-term as well as reducing the long-term likelihood of debilitating and costly complications like limb amputation, kidney disease or heart failure,”  Australian Diabetes Society CEO Associate Professor Sof Andrikoloulos said.