Hundreds of thousands of people living with diabetes in Europe do not have access to the treatment they need, putting their health at risk. These are the initial findings of a study by the International Diabetes Federation Europe (IDF Europe) on Access to Quality Medicines and Medical Devices for Diabetes Care in Europe. 
The first of its kind in the field of diabetes, the study highlights constraints and disparities in access to diabetes treatment in 47 European countries.
Half of the countries surveyed reported stock and shortage issues. Respondents in more than one third of the countries covered also reported increasing difficulties in getting their prescription as they face delays of up to several months to see their healthcare professional, or because there are no healthcare professionals close to where they live.
The economic crisis exacerbates these issues. This is particularly true for Mediterranean countries, such as Greece and Portugal, where local healthcare centres have had to reduce their staff or have simply closed down due to austerity measures.
Overall, the study also identified a general lack of access to continuous diabetes education for people living with diabetes, their families and healthcare professionals in all the countries surveyed.
Due to quotas on subsidized or free diabetes medicines and devices, many people have to choose between paying for their own treatment or just doing without. People with diabetes in Spain reported spending on average 300 euros per year on their diabetes medicines and devices. This is a considerable amount of money as millions of people in Spain live with a net salary of less than 1000 euros per month. In Poland people with diabetes reportedly spend around 400 euros per year for their treatment. This represents more than half of the average monthly salary, which currently stands at 654 euros. In Bulgaria, Russia and Azerbaijan, people reported having to spend well over 700 euros a year.
Within countries, differences in regional implementation of national guidelines also create growing inequalities as to who can get certain diabetes medicines or devices. “Access to diabetes care should not be a lottery”, comments João Nabais, President of IDF Europe. “In more and more countries, we see that access to quality diabetes care depends on your age, where you live or even whether or not you have a job.”
Inadequate access to medicines and devices has dire consequences for people with diabetes and health care systems, which are faced with spiraling costs. Poorly managed diabetes leads to serious and costly health complications including blindness, stroke, kidney failure and amputations.
“Unwise budget cuts in public healthcare expenditure are proving to be counterproductive. Investment in comprehensive, quality diabetes care saves lives and avoids unnecessary suffering,” adds João Nabais. “It saves money too. With adequate treatment, people with
diabetes can manage their condition properly and lead long, healthy and productive lives.” For most countries, the largest single element of diabetes expenditure is hospital admissions for the treatment of diabetes complications. Many of these are preventable with proper treatment and access to continuous education.
“Good health and high quality healthcare are essential for economic and social development. European governments need to ensure that health systems are more efficient and sustainable, while ensuring access to quality care for all people living with diabetes in the region. After all, we are talking about giving people living with diabetes the right to be treated well,” concludes João Nabais.
- Click here to access the full press release with country highlights
- The Executive Summary of the Access to Quality Medicines and Medical Devices for Diabetes Care in Europe is available here 
The full is available here .