Call for help on diabetes funding ‘crisis’


By Geir O'Rourke

13 Feb 2024

An urgent cash injection is needed to overturn a ‘crisis’ in diabetes research funding, which has declined more than 35% in the past decade, it is being argued.

Federal government funding is also required to address growing issues with access to the diabetes workforce, while key elements of prevention are also at risk without more money.

That’s the message of a series of pre-budget submissions prepared for the government by diabetes groups, which together make a case for change in Australia’s care of people with all forms of diabetes, who now comprise 5.6% of the population.

“In the years ahead, Australia will see a growing number of people developing diabetes, as well as increases in the impact of diabetes-related complications and the costs associated with supporting people with diabetes,” the groups argue.

“Now is the time to act decisively to reduce the impact of the diabetes epidemic, save lives and safeguard the sustainability of Australia’s health system.”

With regard to research, the groups make the case that diabetes has been receiving a diminishing portion of the overall research funding pie and is one of the few disease areas to have seen a funding decline in dollar terms since 2013.

This funding decline has brought diabetes research to a “dire state”, argues the submission, put forward by Diabetes Australia, the Australian Diabetes Educators Association (ADEA) and the Australian Diabetes Society (ADS).

“Some diabetes researchers are now concerned that critical research to address one of Australia’s major health priorities will not be able to continue beyond the next 12 months,” they write.

“If we are to find a cure for diabetes and improve treatment for its complications, it is imperative that diabetes research funding increases and continues.”

Other priorities for funding include:

  • $4.5 million over two years to expand access to continuous glucose monitoring for high-risk people with T2DM who use insulin
  • $1.8 million for a National Diabetes Kidney Disease Screening Program
  • $1.1 million annually for MBS items to fund initiation and support of diabetes technology from credentialled diabetes educators (CDEs)
  • $30 million over three years for CDE visits for those most at risk of diabetes-related complications
  • $14 million annually for CDE visits during pregnancy and the postpartum period

“The in-clinic and out-of-hours support required to initiate diabetes technologies is not currently covered by Medicare and must be privately funded or, in most occasions, is provided pro bono to those who can’t afford to pay for it. In many cases, the intervention and support of an endocrinologist or CDE prevents a trip to the emergency department and/or hospitalisation,” the submission states.

“Introducing MBS funding for diabetes technology initiation and support outside of clinic hours is a critical step to reducing healthcare disparities and increasing access to necessary healthcare.”

Moreover, all requested spending would result in reduced costs down the line of up to $1.25 billion, argues the submission, which points to evidence from JDRF and Deloitte Access Economics, amongst other sources.

According to the submission, “A recent JDRF report estimates that access to diabetes technology for people with type 1 diabetes results in cost savings of $54,000 per person. ”

“To achieve that impact, people must know how to use their technology appropriately.”

“Moreover, the report also found that 2% (or about $58 million annually) of the cost is attributed to diabetic ketoacidosis and hypoglycaemic emergencies.

“Access to support could substantially reduce that cost, potentially resulting in savings of up to $75 million according to Deloitte Access Economics. That equates to over $16 in saved health system costs for every dollar spent on diabetes education.”

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