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New Brunswick looks to lighten financial burden for those with diabetes

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick budget to lighten financial burden for those with diabetes'
New Brunswick budget to lighten financial burden for those with diabetes
WATCH: After years of public demands, New Brunswick is looking to lighten the financial load for those with diabetes. The new budget outlines cash to expand the provincial insulin pump program to those over 25. Robert Lothian has more. – Mar 24, 2023

As part of its latest fiscal budget, New Brunswick will try to ease the financial pressures associated with having diabetes.

In his budget speech on Tuesday, Minister of Finance Ernie Steeves said $2.1 million will be allocated for better diabetes management.

Funding for treatment of the chronic disease is welcome news for Rob Roscoe, a New Brunswick pharmacist consultant, who works within family physician offices helping people manage their diabetes.

“The more we can actually help the patient learn how to help self-manage themselves, the less cost in the long run to themselves from health outcomes, as well as lower cost to us as a population,“ Roscoe told Global News on Friday.

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In New Brunswick, annual out-of-pocket costs can exceed $18,000 for those with Type 1 diabetes and $10,000 for those with Type 2 diabetes, according to Diabetes Canada.

The province’s announcement is expected to address many of the steep costs associated with diabetes. Steeves noted the age cap on the insulin pump program, which is currently 25, will be removed.

For some of Roscoe’s patients, ageing out of the program has meant reverting to a syringe. In some cases, he said, patients will use supplies more often than recommended to cut costs.

“If they don’t have the coverage or they’re trying to start, and they have additional costs, the costs of the program that come out of pocket dramatically increase, so we have a lot of people who may stop using the pump and go back to their multiple daily injections,” Roscoe said.

Additionally, updates are expected to the family contribution calculation, and coverage will be provided for continuous glucose monitoring.

Commonly referred to as a CGM, the device tracks blood sugar levels regularly.

“When you poke your finger, it’s like looking at a picture — you can’t really tell what happened before or after the picture,” explained Roscoe.

“When you’re using the (CGM), it’s like watching a movie, so you can go back and see what happened beforehand and what happened afterward.”

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Roscoe added this feedback helps patients better manage their health while reassuring them in the process.

In an interview with Global News Thursday, Maria Campbell, the director of government relations for Diabetes Canada, noted the CGM can carry an annual price tag from $3,500 to $6,000.

The organization applauded the government’s move to cover more financial costs for those with diabetes.

“This decision will have a significant impact on the lives of eligible New Brunswickers managing Type 1 and Type 2,” she said.

In the coming years, the province is expected to see an increase in residents with diabetes, and possibly further strain on the health-care system. Campbell noted over the next decade, New Brunswick could experience a 23-per cent increase in the prevalence of diabetes.

Diabetes Canada is asking the province to help develop a diabetes framework specific to New Brunswick.

“A framework for diabetes, a specific, provincial framework, and this will look at adequate resources, it will look at measurable progress, it will look at comprehensive data, inclusive education and research,” Campbell said.

The Department of Health could not provide Global News with a timeline for when the announced initiatives will be implemented.

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