Corrupt profits over patients

CGMs should be given to all diabetics in Malta free of charge, and this would be a pivotal step towards modernising diabetes care, improving patient outcomes, and reducing the burden on the healthcare system

During one of my house visits in Tarxien I met Maria, a vibrant and engaging woman in her fifties, who has been living with diabetes for over a decade. Maria shared her daily struggles with managing her condition, a story that is all too common among many Maltese and Gozitans.

Despite her diligent efforts to maintain her health, Maria faces constant challenges due to the lack of access to the latest diabetes management technologies that are standard in many other European countries, such as France and Belgium.

She spoke to me about her desire to use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to better manage her condition but lamented that such devices are not covered by national health insurance for people over 45 and living with diabetes. The financial burden of purchasing one on her own is too high, leaving her to rely on less effective methods.

Hers is not a unique story. By meeting so many people like her on my campaign trail, it is now crystal clear to me that this is a huge issue in Malta. According to recently published data, the prevalence of diabetes in our population stands at 11.2%. There are gaps in our healthcare system—a system that fails to provide its citizens with the necessary tools to manage their health effectively. Maria’s experience underscores the urgent need for reform in our approach to diabetes care, pushing for a healthcare system that is inclusive, adaptive, and responsive to the needs of all its citizens.

In Malta, real-time continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) are only reimbursed for people living with Type 1 Diabetes under the age of 45. Other technologies are also not available in Malta. Expanding access to CGMs to all diabetics could significantly improve the lives of individuals with diabetes and offer substantial benefits to the broader healthcare system. This is something that I have been pushing for since 2020. This pressure has paid off with the technology being offered to a wider spectrum but not to all. I am committed to continuing this fight because not everyone can afford to spend €70 a week.

It is not just about CGMs but also about medicines. Data compiled by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations shows Malta is last on the list of EU countries when it comes to public health coverage of medicines, with only 6% of medicines covered as compared to 45% in Europe. Diabetics in Malta are left without key medicines which prevent health complications for diabetes patients and which are widely covered by national health insurance schemes in the rest of Europe. Malta is also the last country in which patients have access to new medicines. When it comes to medicines, we are definitely not the best in Europe.

This Labour government has squandered millions in the Vitals corruption scandal. How can this government turn its back on patients and claim that they do not have money for CGMs when its top brass is being accused of money laundering, corruption, and bribery? Robert Abela’s government has dragged its feet in rolling out CGMs. Robert Abela has a lot to explain about how he allowed a fraudulent deal to proceed under his watch and, at the same time, act like a scourge to diabetics. Robert Abela has ignored the shocking revelations in the inquiry, which he tried to hide but was published by MaltaToday. While millions were siphoned from our health system for the interest of few, patients and the most vulnerable are ignored.

But even if lack of finances is the government’s main argument, CGMs can reduce long-term healthcare costs from the state coffers. By improving diabetes management, CGMs can significantly reduce the incidence of diabetes-related complications, which are often costly to treat. This not only alleviates the financial burden on the healthcare system but also decreases out-of-pocket expenses for patients.

CGMs should be given to all diabetics in Malta free of charge, and this would be a pivotal step towards modernising diabetes care, improving patient outcomes, and reducing the burden on the healthcare system. One more plus for the government is the data for better treatment decisions. CGMs can collect comprehensive data that healthcare providers can use to make more informed treatment decisions. This data-driven approach can lead to more personalized and effective diabetes management strategies.

In a meeting held with the International Diabetes Federation – Europe in Brussels, I discussed various aspects and made a commitment that if elected as MEP, I will follow in the footsteps of Simon Busuttil and Francis Zammit Dimech, who, as MEPs, worked on the matter at the European Parliament through the Diabetes Interest Group.

Above all, I will fight corruption using new methods. For me, this is also a matter of addressing injustices including with patients. I am also committed to ensure that we reach EU standards, not least when it comes to access to medicines. This is when we can truly say that we are the best in Europe.

On 8 June use your vote wisely.