Although many people with diabetes are using continuous glucose monitors to track blood sugar levels, they still rely on traditional fingerstick glucose meters and test strips.
Many people shell out a lot of money to use these tools and have many questions about the value they’re getting. So what do finger stick tests tell us about diabetes management? How accurate are the results? And why are they darned expensive?
More than 38% of PWDs (Person with disabilities) in the United States and 33% worldwide have rationed blood glucose testing supplies.
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Table of Contents
What are glucose test strips used for?
Let’s start with basic information: Blood glucose meters and the test strips require PWDs to measure their blood sugar levels at home. First developed in 1964-65 and used in doctors’ offices, meters and test strips became available for PWDs at home in 1981.
When the user takes a blood sugar reading, the user inserts the strip into the meter and then applies a drop of blood, using the “lancet” needle to poke their finger. Maximum meters give a reading in few seconds. Then the meter store the data for later review by their doctor.
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Types of Insulin for type 2 diabetes
Must use it along with long-acting insulin in people with type 1 diabetes.
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How do glucose test strips work?
If you have diabetes, it’s probably a familiar drill: You stick the test strip into the meter’s slot and prick a finger with the lancet, drop drops of blood, and transfer the blood to the edge of the diabetes test strip.
What happens next is ingenious, even though at first glance, the technology seem old-fashioned when compared to other insulin pumps, CGMs, or new technologies for diabetes care.
The science behind the diabetes test strips is complicated. They are made up of five layers, including a super-thin layer of gold that helps manage the current.
How accurate are glucose test strips?
This has been a controversial issue because other meters and strips are more reliable than others. In addition, there’s concern about the accuracy of models that have been out on the market for many years, so they haven’t tested for accuracy as their original approval.
The California-based nonprofit Diabetes Technology Society newly tested 19 popular blood glucose meters and compared their results to outside laboratories that tested identical blood specimens.
In some studies, only 6 brands passed that accuracy test:
- Contour Next from Bayer – 100%
- Walmart ReliOn Confirm from Arkray – 97%
- CVS/pharmacy Advanced from Agamatrix – 97%
- Accu-Chek Aviva Plus from Roche – 98%
- FreeStyle Lite from Abbott – 96%
- Accu-Chek Aviva Plus from Roche – 98%
- Accu-Chek SmartView from Roche – 95%
Don’t worry: You can trust any glucose meter and strips to provide a result within 20% of outstanding lab values, and therefore not in danger if you are not concerned about insulin dosing.
But “the accuracy of results, with ease of use and price of the meter and strips, should factor your decision when choosing a glucose meter,” according to specialists in the DTS’ Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology.
Can you purchase glucose test strips over the counter (OTC)?
Diabetes test strips are available over the counter (OTC) at big box stores, independent retail pharmacies, and many websites, including Amazon, eBay, discount pharmaceutical sites like GoodRx, and manufacturers’ online sites. In addition, you can find them in the so-called “grey market.”
Do you need a prescription to purchase diabetic test strips?
You don’t need any prescription to buy test strips over the counter in the U.S. But a healthcare provider’s prescription is required by insurers to cover brands of test strips, blood glucose meters, and supplies.
Diabetes test strips cost
For PWDs, diabetes test strips cost too much!
The costs can dramatically, adding up, especially if you buy them without any insurance. Prices change often, but to give you an idea of the range, at the time of publication, Amazon showed the following brands:
- Prodigy: $.16 per strip ($8.06 per 50)
- ReliOn: $.18 per strip ($8.96 per 50)
- Accu-Chek Guide: $.53 per strip ($26.50 per 50)
- CVS/pharmacy Advanced: $1.80 per strip ($89.95 for 50)
- One Touch Ultra Blue: $1.00 per strip ($51.59 per 50)
Diabetic test strips legal to sell?
What do we do with expired diabetic test strips?
If you want to be a great citizen of the planet, it’s good not to throw out medical waste in regular trash bags, including glucose test strips or alcohol swabs.
There is an excellent guide to disassembling and recycling the different components of your glucose test kit.
Still have any questions about diabetes test strips? Ask in the comments section!
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