Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt has blamed inaction by the manufacturer of the Freestyle Libre glucose flash monitor for delays to subsidised access to the devices on the National Diabetes Services Scheme.
Responding to a petition signed by more than 215,000 people calling for the devices to be made available, the minister said he had never promised the device would be subsidised by 1 March 2019, as opponents had claimed, and he said the government was waiting for the company Abbott to meet pre-specified requirements for subsidy.
“What we committed to was continuous glucose monitoring on 1 March and to list FreeStyle Libre once the company met the requirements,” he told the House of Representative on 12 September.
“The company to this point has not met those requirements. After much pushing of them we have now received – again only in recent days – a proposal where they are beginning to indicate a willingness to accept the independent medical experts’ recommendations.”
“But at this stage – and I have written to them noting that we will do that – they have not fully accepted the recommendations in the terms put forward by the independent medical experts.”
The petition, supported by Diabetes Australia, had been tabled by opposition health spokesperson Chris Bowen, who said the minister had promised to list the CGM devices with no caveats by 1 March.
The petition noted that people with type 1 diabetes currently faced costs of $50 a day to use the devices, which made them unaffordable for most patients.
If @GregHuntMP is going to deny he promised to list the flash glucose monitor on 1 March this year, the least he could do is list it immediately to help Australians with diabetes pic.twitter.com/ULwHyums72
— Chris Bowen (@Bowenchris) September 12, 2019
The petition was started by Christopher Slingsby-Smith, who said he had struggled with managing his T1D after being diagnosed with the condition and losing his job in the Royal Australian Navy.
“Then Flash came along and I put it on and within three month period my HbA1c went down from about 9.8 to 7.3,” he said.
“Instantly I saw a fantastic results and I thought if it works for me, it could work for everyone else. I was in a fortunate position where my family could afford for me to use the Flash on a regular basis, and I thought: let’s start a petition so that everyone can afford it.”
A spokesperson for Abbott said the company had worked with the Department of Health on two comprehensive Health Technology Assessment (HTA) reviews since 2015, to establish cost-effectiveness and affordability for subsidisation of FreeStyle Libre for all Australians with Type 1 diabetes, without restrictions.
“Our latest pricing proposal provided to the Department of Health (DoH) in June 2019 is in line with the proposed cost-effective price from the Independent Advisory Committee that considered the subsidisation of FreeStyle Libre for all Australians living with Type 1 diabetes. We continue to work with the Federal Government and the Department of Health towards full access of FreeStyle Libre for people with Type 1 diabetes,” he said.