Use of insulin pumps rising among people with Type 1 diabetes

The use of insulin pumps to manage Type 1 diabetes is increasing and more people are starting on a pump sooner after diagnosis, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong autoimmune disease that requires the administration of insulin many times a day for survival. Insulin pumps are small computerised devices that deliver insulin under the skin and are controlled by the user, and are increasingly being used as an alternative to the more traditional method of injecting insulin several times a day.

The report, Insulin pump use in Australia, shows that at 30 June 2011 there were 10,510 insulin pump users in Australia, representing 10% of people with Type 1 diabetes. The report shows almost 50% of all insulin pump users were under 25 years old and over 60% were female.

‘Between 2004 and 2010, the number of new insulin pump users with Type 1 diabetes rose from an average of 107 to 140 per month,’ said AIHW spokesperson Susana Senes.

‘People with Type 1 diabetes now begin using insulin pump therapy relatively sooner after diagnosis than in the past. In 1997, less than 1% began using an insulin pump within 2 years of diagnosis; in 2009, this had risen to 18%.’

Users’ experiences with insulin pumps were mainly positive, with the benefits of pump use outweighing any problems.

‘The most common motivation for choosing a pump was better control of diabetes (88%), and 86% of users said the main benefit of pump use was the ease with which it fitted in with their lifestyle,’ Ms Senes said.

Despite these benefits, the costs associated with insulin pump use may be a barrier for many.

The pump itself costs between $4,000 and $9,000. Around 80% of insulin pump users with Type 1 diabetes obtained a private health insurance rebate for the purchase of their pump.

Just under one-third of pump users surveyed expressed concerns about the cost of pump consumables, with the ongoing average cost of consumables being $29 per month, compared with a $6 per month all-up cost for injection therapy.

‘We also found that insulin pump use was more common among people living in areas of high socioeconomic status, with 14% of people with Type 1 diabetes in these areas using a pump, compared to 6% in areas of low socioeconomic status,’ Ms Senes said.

Insulin pump use also varied regionally, with the highest proportion of pump users among people with Type 1 diabetes occurring in the Australian Capital Territory (15%) and the lowest in the Northern Territory (7%).

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 15 August 2012

Further information: Susana Senes, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1171, mob. 0407 915 851

Publication: Insulin pump use in Australia