Laura Marois, a woman with type 1 diabetes from Manitoba, Canada, has called on the province to rethink their policy of only funding insulin pumps for children.

Marois has been using an insulin pump since the age of 18, and believes that they are extremely useful for people with type 1 diabetes – whatever their age.

“It just feels like freedom,” she said. “You can eat whatever as long as you know much carbohydrates are in it.”

Insulin pumps are used as an alternative to manual insulin injections. The pump is programmed to deliver doses of insulin at certain times of day, and does so automatically. Dosage of bolus insulin – the insulin taken to balance out food intake – can be easily adjusted.

Currently, Manitoba covers the cost of insulin pumps for children. But, for many people, that means abandoning their use as soon as they hit 18. For adults, they cost $7,000 per unit, and the units have to be replaced roughly every five years

“They’re pricey. I don’t have $7,000 laying around every five years,” said Marois.

“It’s not like we grow out of it. If you have been covered before you’re 18, well now you’re used to it, and now you have to pay so much to maintain that.”

Marois’s idea is supported by the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA). Kelly Lambin, of the CDA, said: “In the end, it prevents certainly serious complications as well as the hidden healthcare burden.”

As Lambin identifies, the insulin pump system can not only save the human cost of poor diabetes control, but the financial one as well. Despite the high cost of funding an insulin pump for everyone with type 1 diabetes, it could be that the government ends up paying more for hospital care and complications. It depends how much an insulin pump improves blood glucose control, on average.

Right now, there isn’t quite enough research to say for sure whether government-funded insulin pumps are financially viable. The government’s current policy is based on the expert advice that does exist. As Minister of Health Sharon Blady points out:

“[Funding insulin pumps for under-18s] was the place where there would be the most results. I mean, for kids, this is one of those things. It’s about managing their care. For kids, it offers them some stability, some regularity.”

Blady confirmed that the government will continue to work with the Canadian Diabetes Association and similar organisations to make sure that care is effective as it can feasibly be.

“I just want to keep a dialogue going, and this raises an important point about how it is we ensure that folks get the care that they want and need in the long term.”

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