Nov. 14 was World Diabetes Day, recognizing a health problem that affects close to one in 10 Canadians. It’s estimated that by 2025, the condition will affect five million Canadians, or just over 12 per cent of the population. And that doesn’t include the estimated 22 per cent of Canadians who have prediabetes conditions.
This is a health matter that needs to be taken seriously. Diabetes Canada points out that diabetes complications are associated with premature death, with an estimated one of 10 deaths in Canadian adults attributable to diabetes in 2008-09.
The International Diabetes Federation website notes that the theme for this year’s World Diabetes Day is “Women and diabetes — our right to a healthy future.” The awareness campaign’s focus is to “promote the importance of affordable and equitable access for all women at risk for or living with diabetes to the essential diabetes medicines and technologies, self-management education and information…”
There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes (previously known as juvenile-onset or insulin-dependent diabetes) accounts for five to 10 per cent of people with diabetes, while Type 2 diabetes (formerly called adult-onset or non-insulin-dependent diabetes) can develop at any age but most commonly becomes evident in adulthood.
Ideally, everyone dealing with diabetes should have full access to the medications and devices they require, but that’s not always the case. A report from the Canadian Diabetes Association called “The Burden of Out-of-Pocket Costs for Canadians” explains that “57 per cent of Canadians with diabetes say they do not comply with their prescribed therapy because they cannot afford their medications, devices and supplies, thus potentially compromising their diabetes management.”
That’s because government coverage of diabetes medications, devices and supplies varies from province to province, the report says, leaving some of the costs for these supports being directly shouldered by people with diabetes in order to manage their condition effectively.
The report notes these costs are especially difficult for low-income Canadians, including those “who do not receive social assistance, seniors on fixed incomes, or those who have high drug costs but do not qualify for other forms of assistance.”
Not covering those costs really isn’t saving the health system any money because, as the report points out, lack of access to such supports “can increase the risk for costly, life-threatening diabetes-related complications.” So what is being saved now can lead to multiplied costs farther down the road.
If money can be found to provide safe drug supplies and safe injection sites for drug users, why can’t money be made available to people who are dealing with a problem they didn’t choose to have?
The CDA’s report urges governments to enhance existing financial supports, such as the Disability Tax Credit, and to ensure access and affordability of diabetes medications, devices and supplies for those with diabetes. Doing so not only makes sense from a health-care standpoint, but, in the long run, financially as well.