A doctor specializing in diabetes care has made it his mission to get B.C. to cover a particular set of life-saving drugs.
B.C. is the only province in Canada not to cover a class of diabetes medications known as SGLT2 inhibitors, available since 2014, that lower blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of death from heart disease.
Dr. Tom Elliott, the medical director for BC Diabetes, said the drugs would save 700 lives each year if the costs were covered.
“All these drugs are very effective diabetes drugs,” he told Black Press Media. “They lower blood sugar, but they do it in a better and safer way then other diabetes drugs in that they are not associated with low blood sugar or hypoglycemia.
“And rather then causing weight gain, they cause weight loss. Most people with diabetes are overweight, so this is a very welcomed combination.”
Patients who have had a heart attack or stroke and have taken the medication saw a 32-per-cent drop in all-cause mortality – a result Elliott called “unprecedented.”
Almost 1.5 million people in B.C. have diabetes or pre-diabetes. Patients who can afford SGLT2 inhibitors pay more than $1,000 in out of out-of-pocket expenses each year.
He said he’s discussed it with the B.C. government and PharmaCare, but said he was told there’s simply no room in the budget, though he said the money saved in fewer hospitalizations and other expenses would far outweigh the cost of the medication.
“I can’t rest until these drugs are covered.”
The health ministry has not yet provided comment.