The diabetes community in Edmonton is applauding a move by the province that will see Alberta become the first province in Canada to fund an insulin pump program with no age restrictions.
Anyone with Type 1 diabetes – who needs an insulin pump – will be eligible to get one under the new program, which was announced during the 2013 provincial budget on Thursday.
“This is really the first province to actually launch a full program to all people with Type 1 diabetes, so we’re very pleased and we’re very lucky,” said Joan King with the Canadian Diabetes Association.
“They won’t have age restrictions and income restrictions, that’s what we understand the approach is going to be but there are always eligibility criteria for a program like this, often medical criteria.”
King says they’ll be working with the province to implement the program and have been told it could roll out as early as April.
“It’s absolutely the next step in technology to mimic a real pancreas that would normally provide the insulin a body needs to manage blood sugar, blood glucose so for a person who has a difficult time particularly to manage with needles, this is absolutely a Godsend to them,” King said.
It’s good news for Chris Miller, who has been living with diabetes for more than 30 years.
Miller says he’s been waiting for an insulin pump program, but over the summer, decided to pay for the $7,000 device himself.
He says the technology – which is an alternative to multiple daily insulin injections – has changed his life.
He used to need five needles a day – but that’s no longer the case.
Most importantly, Miller says his disease is being better managed.
He hopes the new government program will benefit thousands of Albertans like him.
'It's a step in the right direction'
“It’s definitely a good step forward. It’s a step in the right direction,” Miller said.
However, he questions how far the money will go.
“When I heard the numbers, about $5 million for the program, that seems like a lot of money,” Miller said.
“But when you’re talking a $7,000 device, that money doesn’t go too far. That’s 700 and some insulin pumps across the province which wouldn’t cover all Type 1 diabetics.”
Miller adds he has no regrets that he didn’t hold off and wait for the pump program to be in place before purchasing his own, as
“I’ve wanted to go on one for years for better control. I have no regrets,” he said.
Alberta Health Services says the plan is for the program to fund the monthly supplies for the pump that can cost as much as $400 a month as well.
The province tells CTV News eligibility will be based on individual medical needs.
While the move is being applauded, the Canadian Diabetes Association points out that Alberta is one of the last in the country to put an insulin pump therapy program in place.
About 14,000 Albertans live with Type 1 diabetes.
The Canadian Diabetes Association says of that figure, an estimated 6,200 people would be eligible for the pump.
Diabetes in Alberta is expected to rise from 245,000 people in 2012 to 544,000 people by 2032.
The number of Albertans living with Type 1 diabetes is expected to rise to 24,400 by 2032.
With files from Carmen Leibel