Fear of threat to diabetes subsidy

THE health of thousands of people around Parramatta will be at risk if the federal government removes a crucial diabetes treatment from the Pharmaceuticals Benefit Scheme (PBS).

Doctors say type two diabetes is endemic in western Sydney, with 9450 registered patients in the federal Parramatta electorate alone.

Yet as Prime Minister Julia Gillard spruiks for votes in the west, her government is reviewing whether blood glucose test strips for type two diabetics should remain subsidised on the benefit scheme.

Toongabbie doctor Shanthini Seelan said at least 500 of his diabetic patients would be worse off if the test strips were removed from the subsidy scheme.

"Type two diabetes has become endemic, especially in western Sydney," he said. "I think that, for a lot of people on pensions or unemployment, if this (treatment) is not completely subsidised, then they're going to have difficulty treating their condition. They may not be able to buy those strips and monitor their health at home, and this will have an adverse effect on diabetes control."

The chief executive of the Australian Diabetes Council, Nicola Stokes, said removing the subsidy could have detrimental health effects for more than one million Australians.

"Many people use these strips to keep an eye on their blood sugar levels," Ms Stokes said. "Without the PBS subsidy it would become unaffordable for many people with diabetes."

Greenway MP Michelle Rowland said the federal government had little control over the independent review.

But Ms Rowland said she had told the Health Minister, Tanya Pilbersek, that a reduction of the subsidy would be detrimental to people in western Sydney.

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