The Waiting Game for new Diabetes Devices

A couple of months ago, there was a press release that caused a wee bit of a frenzy in the diabetes online community? This was before the "is it an artificial pancreas or is it an insulin pump" press release, that's currently doing the rounds. Abbott announced the availability of their Freestyle Libre in the UK. 
People very quickly saw that it was a way to test blood glucose without finger pricking and interest from the diabetes community was instant. Myself included.
A few Irish people purchased the Libre from the UK website and posted on social media about how they were doing with it. This created even more interest. Then, it became UNavailable for anyone from the Republic of Ireland to purchase. You can't even access the UK website any more!

I'm sure that a lot of you are frustrated, like me, to read all about the "amazing" new diabetes products like the Libre, and the Medtronic MiniMed 640G insulin pump, the Dexcom Share and lots more current devices that are not available in Ireland.

Last week, I wrote about my pursuit of a blood glucose meter that has bluetooth capability and I came across some information about why there are more devices available in the UK on the National Health Insurance (NHS) than there are available on the HSE (Irish version of NHS) in Ireland. 

As you might imagine, there is a short list of reasons why Ireland doesn't get all of the new devices, but what it really boils down to, is economics.

The type 1 diabetes market in Ireland is minute compared to our neighbours in Britain, at a staggering 400,000. It's estimated that there are only 16,000 children, young people and adults with type 1 in Ireland. The potential to make a profit out of us is teeny. 

This might sound harsh but a business cannot do business without making a profit. It's just not viable. I don't dispute the pharma company's reluctance when it costs so much to break into our markets.

The pharma companies have to have people to sell the product and a support team to help patients use the product. That is a significant cost to them. Then, pharma companies have to jump through some hoops such as random clinical trials to prove the benefits of the product and assess the demand for their product, in order to apply to become available on the HSE in Ireland. This also takes time and money but it is a once off.

And there is one set of standards, procedures and guidelines for us here in good old ROI and another similar set, but not the same in the UK.

This makes me wonder, if there is a way for the NHS and the HSE to work together to make one complete process of the procedure? Could we have the devices and products approved at the same time for both countries, while still delivering high quality medical devices to the patient?

The benefits of having one procedure would range from reducing the cost to the companies of the entrance into the both markets, to a cost savings for the health services with a more competitive market. 

Maybe the problem isn't that easy to solve, but maybe it's worth exploring further?

In the meantime, we, in Ireland, have to sit tight until these trials are completed and until the HSE grants Abbott permission to distribute the Libre under the long term illness scheme.