Living a successful life with diabetes

By Jessica Tyson
Sam Ellis-Nicholson Source: File

Despite having diabetes, 26-year-old Sam Ellis-Nicholson (Ngāti Raukawa and Ngāti Toa) hasn’t let it hold him back from living a successful life.  A new trial has started in South Auckland to help patients stay on top of their medication- and hopefully follow in his footsteps.

Ellis-Nicholson was diagnosed six years ago with Type 1 diabetes, a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas is no longer able to make insulin.  He is the only member of his whānau to have the disease.

Despite the disease, Ellis-Nicholson is still achieving his goals, he's applying to work in New Zealand Customs and stays fit and active.

“I’m still training, I’m still fit, I still fight, do kickboxing so it doesn’t really slow me down.  It’s how you manage it."

He manages the disease by taking regular insulin medication "five to six times a day”.

"I use a syringe and then just draw out 'x' amount of units depending on what I eat."

Since diabetes is asymptomatic, if patients miss their prescription they won't feel any effects and that could result in serious damage.

“Small arteries can get blocked so your eyes, fingertips- and then you're more prone to heart attacks,” he says.

New trial

A new trial has started to help monitor the level of adherence to diabetes medicine among patients from the Counties Manukau District Health Board.  The South Auckland area is home to eight percent of the country's diabetic patients, which includes around 19,200 people.

Overall there are 240,000 New Zealanders who have diabetes.

Pharmacist Din Redzepagic, from app designer Zoom Pharmacy, says there are a number of reasons diabetics may not have access to prescription medication. 

"We've had great uptake from South Auckland where there's a high population of Māori and Pacific islanders and what we've found is they have a lot of access issues, whether they may be shift workers or they're finding it difficult to actually physically get into a pharmacy," says Redzepagic.

Statistics show a third of patients who have a general practitioner consult will never present a prescription to a pharmacy.  So, as part of the trial, prescriptions will be delivered to patients by courier with the help of a robot and phone app.

"What the robot does essentially is when we put the label through on our practice management software it’ll pick the correct medicine and dispense it to the pharmacist,” says Redzepagic.

Data from the study will be analysed later in the year by the DHB and has the potential to be expanded into other regions if successful.