How do you choose the right Glucose Monitor?
We get asked this question all the time so we've broken it down into a number of points to consider.
NHS - First of all you have to understand some NHS Politics
Within the NHS your GP, or rather the CCG (the organisation your GP works for and the people who take the large purchasing decisions) will dictate what Monitor you get prescribed. The Manufacturer donates the Monitor to the NHS with the expected prescription for test strips contracted back. Thats where the manufacturer makes their money - on the Test Strips. The meter is used as the Trojan Horse. All the massive, powerful, hugely profitable pharmaceutical companies have all owned a Diabetes Brand - Roche has Accu Chek, Johnson & Johnson had One Touch, Bayer had Contour, Abbott has Freestyle.
For years these Drug Companies poured huge amounts of money into the Diabetes market with well paid sales people chasing the doctors' decision to choose their meter and the golden drip of the monthly prescription for test strips.
However things are changing - the CCGs are looking at any opportunity to cut services and offerings as the cost of running the NHS suffers due to people living longer and better. Many CCGs have stopped paying for prescriptions for glucose test strips meaning patients have to buy their own. If they are still paying they will probably limit the volume of test strips that can be prescribed. A strange place to be as research has always stated that regular monitoring leads to much better outcomes.
For this reason the pharma companies don't view the glucose monitoring market as much fun anymore. With no precscription contracts guaranteeing supply, it means the same brands will have to fight it out in the open retail market which won't be as profitable. Accu Chek hasn't exhibited for the last few years at the Professional Diabetes Conference.
Accu Check has dramatically cut it's line of monitors and limited test strip supply. J&J has got rid of One Touch, Bayer has sold Contour and Abbott is banking on the Freestyle Libre with no focus on any other product. The Libre is a brilliant product and the NHS has taken it on for all Type 1 Diabetes patients. However, its hugely expensive for Type 2 patients and until there is a competitor there's not much need for them to lower the price.
Cost - Look for Price of the Test Strips first
NICE recommends that a Type 1 diabetic test at least 4 times daily sometimes as many as 10 times. A Type 2 diabetic may need to monitor once or twice pre or post meal.
Therefore a Type 1 Diabetic could be using as many as 120 test strips a month with a Type 2 Diabetic using as many as 50 per month.
Almost all Test Strips come in packs of 50 so a Type 2 Diabetic will need 1 pack per month and a Type 1 Diabetic needing 3 packs per month.
Brands like Accu Chek, Contour and Freestyle have higher priced test strips falling over £20 but you really are paying for the brand name. You should be looking for Test Strips priced below £10 to £15 and their respective meters - we favour GlucoRx, 2in1 and SD Codefree for this reason.
The cost of the meter then comes down to your specification.
Ease of Use and Maintenance - Does it work for me?
Some meters are easier to use than others. Are both the meter and test strips comfortable and easy to hold? Can you easily see the numbers on the screen? How easy is it to get blood onto the strips? How big a drop of blood is required? Read the Reviews but we don't sell meters that we don't feel are easy to use and maintain.
Bluetooth - No more Log Book but check out the app first.
Bluetooth may be the way to connect your monitor to your phone but its what you do after that which matters. Some apps are better than others but most will allow you to save readings similar to a log book and then spot trends. A great way for you and your GP to keep on top of your readings. many Monitors have a PC Cable which links into a piece of PC Software but who uses cables anymore?
In time all monitors will be Bluetooth enabled and App ready but at the moment they're being positioned as premium when they shouldn't be - we need to get the price of a bluetooth monitor sub £20 and all Diabetics will benefit.
Special Features - Compact Size, Speaking Meter
Ask about the features to see what meets your specific needs. Special features may include large, easy-to-handle buttons and test strips, illuminated screens, and audio, which may be useful for people with impaired vision. Some people like a larger monitor to handle, others prefer a lip stick size monitor to fit in their handbag like the Gluco RX Q
As Glucose Monitoring Technology has become much more reliable, many Brand owners use the same contract manufacturers in China or Taiwan. There are about 50 Far East Factories who manufacture the brands you see displayed.
You have to make sure that the brand they are contracted to has a UK support function which is not just the reseller or distributor. Accu Chek, Freestyle, Contour and Gluco RX all have UK contact points.
After taking all this into account our best relationship is with GlucoRX - a Great British company who are stealing a march in Glucose monitoring in the UK and the NHS. The prices are excellent and our returns numbers are almost non existent. See the whole range here