There are currently more than 34 million Americans living with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and the great majority still use test strips and glucose meters to test their blood sugar each day. While it’s true that all test strips and meters measure blood sugar levels in much the same way, the question whether they are all equally effective as part of your diabetes treatment plan is one that’s up for debate.
Things to consider when deciding on a test strip and glucose meter combination include accuracy, cost, ease of use, and most importantly your physician’s recommendations. In this post, we’ll explore some of these factors with a special look at a recent study revealing the accuracy of various glucose meter and test strip brands on the market today.
How Do Glucose Meters and Test Strips Work?
Granted, it probably wouldn’t classify as breakthrough science anymore but how glucose meters and test strips measure blood sugar levels is still pretty darn cool. Essentially, when you prick your finger using a lancet and draw a drop of blood onto your test strip, the chemicals in the strip react with the glucose in your blood to create an electrical current. When placed inside a compatible glucose meter, the meter is able to gauge how much blood sugar was required to generate the amount of electrical current that was created. This amount is the number that appears on your glucose meter and just like that you know what your blood sugar is at any given time.
Are All Glucose Meters and Strips Equally Accurate?
Well, unfortunately, the answer to this question is no they are not. In many ways, however, this is to be expected as glucose meters and test strips are manufactured by different companies and have different features as well as price points.
Just a few years ago, three separate blind studies by the Diabetes Technology Society examined the accuracy of 18 different glucose meter and test strip combinations. In a nutshell, each study drew blood from adults with diabetes. Blood sugar was then tested using a popular glucose meter and test strip combination, and also tested in a laboratory, where results are known to be pinpoint accurate. By comparing the results provided by the glucose meters and test strips with the results garnered in the lab, the study was able to determine the accuracy of each meter and test strip combination.
According to the Diabetes Technology Society, the standard for an accurate reading would be one that was within 15mg/dL of the laboratory reading in at least 95% of the tests conducted. The results were quite revealing.
Only six brands of the 18 brands studied met these stringent standards for accuracy. They are as follows:
Walmart ReliOn Confirm (Micro) from Arkray
CVS Advanced from Agamatrix
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Looking Beyond Accuracy Alone
While it’s true that the studies referenced above are revealing and certainly worth a discussion with your diabetes physician, there are other considerations you should be aware of when choosing a glucose meter and test strips. These include how much you’re going to pay for your meter and, most importantly, for the test strips you will go through rather quickly and need to replenish regularly.
For instance, there are glucose meters that are inexpensive but require you to “code” or calibrate them to each new box of test strips you purchase. This doesn’t take a tremendous effort, but it does put added responsibility on the user to make sure the meter and strips are properly coded. Other more costly meters don’t require coding. Some meters also require a larger blood sample in order to attain an accurate reading, which might add to the discomfort of those daily finger pricks.
Additionally, some test strips just cost more than others for reasons we may never quite understand. For the most part, test strips can range anywhere from about $12 for a box of 50 to near $50 for the same count. Remember, test strips are used once and then discarded, so you will have to replenish your supply regularly. The costs can add up and for many people this becomes a major factor in their decision.
What About Insurance?
Insurance coverage can play a big role in helping you determine which glucose meter and test strips are the right choices. Navigating insurance, however, can be tricky. For instance, some plans will only cover specific brands. If you choose a glucose meter and test strips that are not included on the approved list, you’ll end up paying everything out of pocket. This just isn’t feasible for many people living on a tight budget, therefore, their options become limited to what their insurance is willing to cover.
Other insurance plans have large deductibles that must be met before any type of coverage begins, so you might be purchasing hundreds of strips (and other diabetic supplies and medications) before seeing any sort of discount. This may also limit your options.
Finally, many people switch insurance plans in the hopes of lower premiums but neglect to do their due diligence. Just because your glucose meter and test strips are covered under your current plan does not mean they will be under a new plan. Be sure you take the time to verify acceptance before making the switch.
The Forbes Health Best Glucose Meters Of 2022
Here’s some more information that might help you decide. Forbes Health picked their top five glucose meters for 2022 based on popular concerns, including cost, required sample size, and special features. Here’s their list:
If you’re currently using a different meter than one of these, it might be worth discussing new options with your diabetes physician and care team. Remember, never make any changes to your diabetes testing and treatment program without first consulting with your doctor.
We hope you found this blog insightful and informative. If you’ve been diagnosed with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, the most important thing you can do for your health is to adhere to your doctor-prescribed testing and treatment program.
Diabeticteststrips.org is a trusted supplier of diabetes care products and accessories. For more information and to explore a complete range of products, including glucose meters and test strips, insulin syringes, pen needles, continuous glucose monitoring systems, and more, visit www.Diabeticteststrips.org.