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50,000 people denied insulin pumps in the UK

Diabetes UK is calling for more access to insulin pumps for people with diabetes.

The call comes as research published today shows they are more effective in improving blood glucose control and reducing hypoglycaemic episodes than traditional insulin injections.

Just over two per cent (6,000) of people with Type 1 diabetes in the UK are using pumps compared to 15 to 20 per cent in the USA and Germany. Diabetes UK estimates that a further 50,000 people are eligible for insulin pumps but are being denied access.

Diabetes UK wants primary care organisations to end this postcode lottery and for the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to review their restrictive guidance.

The study

Researchers in Barcelona studied 153 people with Type 1 diabetes, who previously treated their condition with traditional injections. After two years of insulin pump therapy average blood glucose levels went down from 7.9% to 7.3% (good blood glucose levels are between 6.5% and 7.5 %).

Pumps could benefit more people

“This research is more evidence that insulin pumps could benefit many more people with diabetes," said Simon O’Neill, Director of Care, Information and Advocacy at Diabetes UK.

"Although pumps are not recommended for all people who manage their diabetes with insulin, it would be beneficial for many, including those with Type 2 diabetes. PCTs must ensure that people have the option according to clinical need, personal choice and suitability.

Long-term savings

“The annual cost of a pump is more than insulin injections, £1,400 compared to around £500. However, in the long term it would benefit the NHS by reducing the cost of treating diabetic complications, which currently runs at £5 billion a year.

"Diabetes UK urges NICE to take account of this new research and enable those suitable for pump therapy to move towards achieving good blood glucose control when it publishes new guidance in 2008.”

The study is published today in the journal Diabetic Medicine.

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