Diabetes association seeks price cap on drugs

No diabetic should have to spend more than three per cent of their income to cover drugs, supplies and devices, Canadian Diabetes Association says. Cap could help health-care system by preventing long-term complications.

A national cap is needed on the cost of drugs and supplies that diabetics must pay for out of pocket, the Canadian Diabetes Association said Wednesday.

People with diabetes should not have to spend more than three per cent of their income to cover medication, supplies and devices, said the association's 2005 Diabetes Report.

Cost is a barrier to properly managing the disease, it said. More than two million Canadians have diabetes.

The association proposes a drug plan to meet the three per cent cap, arguing there would be fewer long-term complications of diabetes in the health-care system.

People with diabetes are prone to complications including heart and kidney disease, blindness and amputations. Currently, diabetes is related to one out of every 10 hospital visits.

Type 2 diabetes was originally thought to be confined to adults but is now on the rise among young people. In Type 2, weight gain, poor nutrition and lack of exercise reduce the ability of insulin manufactured by the body to control levels of sugar, producing a condition called insulin resistance.

People with Type 1 diabetes produce little or no insulin, but doctors don't know exactly why. People who have it inject insulin.

Jamie Waterlow, 24, of Vancouver, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at age 14. He had his left leg amputated at the knee.

Waterlow earns less than $30,000 a year and said he can't afford to pay for diabetic supplies without the help of his parents. He said more financial help could keep him healthier longer.

"I don't want to be one of those people later on in my life turning to the government saying, 'You need to help me now, because I am going blind, because my diabetes is out of control, or I've lost my other leg because of circulation problems.'"

The association's report includes case studies illustrating how much diabetics pay out-of-pocket depending on where they live and whether they have private health-care insurance.

Janet, a composite it created, is 22 years old with Type 1 diabetes. She earns $15,000 a year and has no private insurance. If she lived in Newfoundland and Labrador, she would be paying $3,639.33 annually for medication – the highest amount across Canada. .

Her annual costs elsewhere would be:

  • Nova Scotia $3,585.71
  • New Brunswick $3,355.42
  • Prince Edward Island $3,116.19
  • Alberta $2,359.34.
  • Saskatchewan $ 1,451.04
  • Quebec $962.85
  • Ontario $948.27
  • Northwest Territories $550.00
  • British Columbia $395.00
  • Manitoba $336.00
  • Yukon $250.00
  • Nunavut 0

The long-term costs of covering drug and supply costs is too compelling to ignore, said Jean Blake, executive director of Vancouver's Diabetes Association.