Position statement

Federal, provincial and territorial governments should commit to a strategy such that the cost to the individual of diabetes medication, supplies and medical devices, as well as the costs associated with diabetes-related complications, are not a barrier or a burden to managing the disease.

Definition

Medication, supplies and medical devices are broadly defined to include all currently-accepted therapies, as well as newer technologies such as insulin pumps. Herbal remedies and alternative therapies that are not included on drug plans are not included.

Background and rationale

A person with diabetes usually incurs medical costs which are much higher than those of a person without diabetes, including:

  • Diabetes management supplies such as syringes, glucose testing meters, test strips and insulin pumps.
  • Insulin and/or other diabetes drugs and therapeutics.
  • Other medication to lower cholesterol, blood pressure, etc.
  • Frequent medical visits and diagnostic tests.
  • Specialized home care visits, and rehabilitation or permanent residential care should debilitating complications arise.

People with diabetes face these costs no matter where they live in Canada. However, government drug plan coverage to help with this financial burden varies greatly across the country. Some plans cover almost all costs for all the medication, supplies and devices which are needed to adequately manage diabetes, while other jurisdictions provide little or no coverage for these same items.

Coverage levels are often subject to very high deductibles or cost sharing formulas, meaning that even those who qualify for government programs may still be unable to benefit from them. In addition, the level of financial assistance based on income or age also varies widely across the country. For instance, although the cost of insulin for people on social assistance is covered in almost all jurisdictions, in some areas the cost of the syringes needed to administer the insulin is not.

Many proposals for addressing these disparities have been suggested, including a nationally-coordinated drug coverage system, a national pharmacare program, or the inclusion of all drugs under the Canada Health Act. Presently, there are many more questions than answers about what system would best meet the current need. Would everyone be covered or only those with high drug costs and/or low income? Would all therapeutics be covered? Would it be a single payer, publicly financed plan or a combined public/private plan? And, of course, how would such a program be financed?

(Note: This statement was previously entitled "Financial Coverage for Caring for Diabetes and its Complications.") 

Donate to diabetes research today!