Diabetes on rise & new treatment subsidies

Did you know more than 1.3 million Australians received a diabetes diagnosis between 2000 and 2020?

A new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) found nearly 64,000 people are diagnosed with diabetes each year – an average of 175 diagnoses a day. This includes Type 1, Type 2 and other types of diabetes, but excludes gestational diabetes (a typically temporary condition that develops during pregnancy).

That’s the equivalent of an Australian being diagnosed with diabetes every eight minutes.

Diabetes is a chronic condition when the body can’t maintain healthy levels of glucose in the blood. Our bodies need a hormone called insulin (produced by the pancreas) to break down sugars into usable energy for the body. In people with diabetes, insulin is either not produced at all or not produced in enough quantity for what the body needs. This leads to a dangerous build up of glucose in the blood, which can be fatal.

The report shows that diabetes continues to be comparable to a ‘pandemic’ in terms of spread and impact.

The number of people living with diabetes almost tripled between 2000 and 2020 from 460,000 to 1.3 million representing 2.4% to 4.3% of the population.

“Numbers have stabilised in the last decade, however, 1 in 20 Australians were living with the condition in 2020,” AIHW spokesperson Richard Juckes said.

Type 2 diabetes comprises over 90% of diabetes cases in Australia. More than 48,000 people were diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2020 and more than 1.2 million (4.5%) Australians currently live with the condition.

“Diabetes increases the risk of health complications, including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, and lower limb amputation. It is also frequently associated with other chronic health conditions,” Mr. Juckes said.

The prevalence of diabetes varies depending on where people live. Australians living in remote areas are 1.3 times more likely to be living with diabetes and 1.8 times more likely to die from it compared to those living in major cities.

Good news for those living with Type 1

All Australians living with Type 1 diabetes can now access subsidised continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) and flash glucose monitoring devices following the landmark expansion of the CGM Initiative by the Albanese Government.

This is welcome news for the 70,000 people living with Type 1 diabetes and their families.

Diabetes Australia says many people will now pay the equivalent of $32.50 for one month’s supply, or around $400 a year. This is in sharp contrast to previous costs, which for some were up to $4,000 a year.

“Access to diabetes technology is also smart policy that invests in the long-term sustainability of our health system by helping to reduce the number of people who develop debilitating and costly diabetes-related complications,” Diabetes Australia said in a statement.

As many know, living with Type 1 diabetes can be complex and time consuming. Type 1 diabetics undertake a range of daily tasks to stay healthy including checking blood glucose levels with a finger prick check up to six times a day.

That’s more than 2,000 finger prick checks a year. For a person who has lived with Type 1 diabetes for more than 20 years, that’s almost 50,000 finger-prick checks.

Diabetes Australia says CGM technology drastically reduces the number of finger-pricks required which means that people with diabetes can get on with living their lives.

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