HSE delays review of blood-monitoring technology

Adults with diabetes to wait until next year to see if HSE removes age limit on technology

Unlike the finger-prick test used by people with diabetes, there is no need to draw blood using the Freestyle Libre device. Photograph:  iStock

Unlike the finger-prick test used by people with diabetes, there is no need to draw blood using the Freestyle Libre device. Photograph: iStock

 

Thousands of adults with type 1 diabetes will have to wait until next year to find out whether the HSE is prepared to lift restrictions on them accessing new blood sugar monitoring technology.

The Freestyle Libre device has been credited with greatly improving the quality of life of people with the disease since it was approved in April of last year, but only for those aged four to 21 years.

The HSE promised at the time to review the situation after 12 months, once it was in a position to assess the cost of making the device available to children and young adults.

The HSE now has 12 months of data collated for review “within the coming months”, a spokeswoman said on Wednesday. This would allow for the experience of patients and “societal aspects of benefit” to be reviewed.

The Freestyle Libre, made by Abbott, is a small sensor worn on the skin, with readings taken by scanning a handheld device over the sensor.

Unlike the finger-prick test, there is no need to draw blood and continuous information about glucose levels can be obtained.

Medical team

Diabetes Ireland has described the upper age limit on availability as “unfortunate” as it means many adults cannot access the technology despite the support of their medical team.

“The HSE stated it was committed to reviewing who can access this technology within a year but here we are 16 months later and no review,” said Dr Anna Clarke of Diabetes Ireland.

The device has been made available to some adults with type 1 diabetes based on “exceptional need”. However, diabetes specialist Dr Ronan Canavan said he had made many applications over the past year with limited success. One, on behalf of a 22-year-old patient, was refused initially and then again on appeal.

“This person, based on my clinical judgment, needs the technology as his current level of control [of glucose] is very worrying. I recommend he tests his blood glucose level at least 10 times a day but he cannot due to the finger-pricking required. The Freestyle Libre would relieve him of that.”

The patient’s levels mean he is likely to progress to advanced complications within five years, thus proving much more costly to the State, according to Dr Canavan.

Diabetes Ireland says about 20,000 people have type 1 diabetes, including almost 3,000 children aged under 16.