I’ve used blood glucose test strips since I was diagnosed in 1984. At first these consisted of BG Chemstrips, strips not read by a meter but instead compared to a color panel printed on the side of every tube of strips. It was an exercise in placing the blood, wiping after a specified interval, and comparing the color of the two pads after another time interval elapsed. You could make educated guesses along the lines of, “that’s somewhere between 120 mg/dL (6.7 mmol/L) and 140 mg/dL (7.8 mmol/L).”
My therapy consisted of syringes and vials of NPH insulin, before adding Regular insulin for meals. I always tested a fair amount; back then I probably averaged about 6-8 times per day.
When digital BG meters were a new thing
When digital meters showed up in the early ‘90’s, I switched to that system and really like having an exact number, even though I knew the system wasn’t as accurate as the digital number implied.
Over the years, before my adoption of a CGM, I gradually increased my testing and eventually kept up a habit of about 10-15 times per day. I was a bicycle enthusiast for many of those years and found that testing frequently helped keep me out of hypoglycemia trouble.
CGM added to the mix
When I started on my Dexcom 7+ CGM in 2009, I kept up with my frequent testing because the recommendation was not to rely on the CGM for treatment decisions, so I just continued my aggressive testing frequency. I think many in my cohort, however, backed off of their fingerstick tests and started to rely more on the CGM much sooner than I did. I had became so habituated to testing that I didn’t consider it much of a burden. I’m kind of weird that way.
When the FDA decided in December 2016 that one could rely on the Dexcom CGM to make treatment decisions, I decided it was time to start feathering back on my strip use! Over the course of the last year I’ve dropped my fingerstick ritual down to 2-3 times per day.
I use a hybrid do-it-yourself artificial pancreas system, Loop. As long I can keep my Dexcom G4+Share CGM happy, Loop can make good dosing decisions.
Subscribe and lose the aggravation
Now I’m down to my last 500 strips or so and I need to decide how to resupply. I had been using a Medicare supplement insurance plan that I earned through my former employer. That plan meant that I could get a 90-day supply of test strips for a single co-pay. Over the years the co-pay has risen a significant amount, currently it’s at $92 for a 90-day supply. But I made that a bargain when I had my doctor write scrips for testing 14 times per day or a 90-day total of 1250 strips.
I’ve been using the Roche Accu-Chek Aviva system and strips for many years and they’ve been rated well for accuracy and precision by various testing schemes.
I’m tired of the whole insurance game and I’m starting to see blood glucose test strip subscription plans offered. What’s really appealing to me is that I don’t have to manage the order every 90-days. Over the years it seems like I was in some kind of unfriendly tug-of-war trying to manage the doctor, the doctor’s office, the supplier, and whatever delivery method they chose. I hated that activity. After working my way through all their phone menus, I felt like a rat in the maze. I was often in a sour mood when this arose every 90-days. And, of course, I did and still do have to do this for CGM sensors, transmitters, insulin pump infusion sets, and other supplies.
I ran across one test strip supply subscription service today that really seems seductive. It’s called Diathrive. You can order a 90-day supply of strips in 100 strip increments anywhere from 100 to 600 strips. Six hundred strips cost $90. The unit cost of the strips range from $0.24 to $0.15 per strip, depending on quantity. It seems like a no-nonsense kind of company. There are no contracts and you may terminate or pause your deliveries at any time. They maintain a 100% money-back guarantee policy. They bundle your first order with a meter, finger-poker, and lancets at no extra charge.
So, I’m thinking, I pay a $92 mail-order Rx copay. I can get 600 test strips from Diathrive for $90, save $2 and lose all that irritation of dealing with the doctor, medical assistant, ordering staff at the pharmacy, and the delivery snafus.
The strips they sell are ones I’ve never heard of but they claim they not only meet the +/- 20% FDA-required accuracy but actually enjoy +/- 15% accuracy. The meter and test strips are the On Call Express brand.
Diathrive is not the only test strip subscription service on the market. Livongo and One Drop also provide a similar service. Check out this Beyond Type 1 article that surveys the subscription market.
I’m tired of fighting for my D-supplies and this service seems like a way to partly ease the pain and appears to be a breath of fresh air. What are your thoughts?
Note: I have no relationship with Diathrive except as a potential customer.