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Diabetic British Columbians will soon be paying less for insulin pumps

Last Updated Jun 12, 2018 at 4:39 pm PDT

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VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – There is no longer an age restriction for British Columbians needing an insulin pump.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says changes taking effect July 3rd mean anyone older than 25 won’t have to pay between $6,000 and $7,000 for that tool.

“They tend to need to be replaced every five years and that’s what our program will allow for and the cost to creating this program will be approximately $15-million over the next three years through Pharmacare,” says Dix.

Pumps are computerized devices that continuously provide insulin injections, mimicking how the body turns food into sugar.

“So, it’s a significant change, particularly for people who struggle with blood sugar control. It gives them, really, the means to control their blood sugars which has all kinds of positive health effects.”

Dix, who has diabetes, says he doesn’t plan to use a pump, but roughly 830 of nearly half a million people living with Type 1 will soon be able to better manage their condition and improve their quality of life.

The province began paying for insulin pumps for people up to the age of 18 in 2008, then raised the age to 25 in 2014.

B.C. is one of only three provinces offering this coverage.

Local man with diabetes applauding Health Minister’s announcement

A Chilliwack man who has spend years managing his diabetes is applauding the province’s announcement the people with Type 1 won’t be paying out of pocket for insulin pumps, much longer.

Brandon Schenderling was diagnosed with diabetes when he was a child–doctors said he was a “brittle diabetic” with his blood sugar skyrocketing and then plunging in a seemingly uncontrollable pattern. He was a prime candidate for the device that regulates insulin without the guess work.

“I couldn’t even had a set schedule because nothing would ever work…[The pump] is attached to your stomach… and then you type in your carbohydrates [you’ve eaten] and the pump estimates how much insulin you need and it will start giving you insulin whenever you need it.”

He says he was covered by the province until he turned 18. He’s been paying for the pump–and for the other costs–ever since.

“Insulin, it costs about $30 per vial, and that contains about 1000 units…that would last about two weeks, two or three weeks. Then there’s strips to check your blood…that’s $200 right there,” he explains, adding there are even more costs that come with treatment.

“It’s about $500 a month just to pretty much stay alive.”

And that’s before you even get to the $7,000 every five years to replace your pump. He says pumps allows diabetics to live almost-normal lives and not having to worry about coming up with thousands of dollars to buy one, lifts a huge burden.

Schenderling says it’s especially important for low income people with diabetes who have to get by with the old fashioned needle injections every time they eat.