…catch a feature by the glow…
Let me start by saying that I am very happy with my Freestyle Flash meter. I was an early adopter of that model, and despite a rough start (original meter ran errors right out of the box), we’ve had a good few years together, and I’m not that willing to give it up. However, technology changes, and I do have a few minor niggles (Therasense never did come out with the promised USB data cable, and I’m not completely happy with the software), so I’m going to be checking out some of the new stuff on the market. I really just want to look and feel for curiosity sake. It doesn’t hurt that most of the name brands will provide a meter for free.
A few posts here, and a few discussions there, and – given the cost of consumables, and that only one of the three Name Brand meters heading towards me has a direct USB connection (if I invest in the cable) – I decided to take a look at the Web-available information on some of the off-brand meters. I was surprised to find some real innovations in the lesser-known, lower-consumer-cost labels – enough to make me consider swapping my trusty Freestyle for one of them – but for the most part, Name Brand or Off-Brand, what I’m seeing resembles the “Family Dinner” plan on old Chinese restaurant menus: you can have one from Group A, two from Group B, and two from Group C, but you can’t have everything you want.
Here are some of the features – and drawbacks – of some of the devices I looked at. Please note that I have not personally reviewed the items – these are just my impressions based on an afternoon’s Web-based research. I would be very interested in hearing about anyone’s experiences – good or bad – with any of these glucometers.
- Accu-Chek Aviva: Roche Diagnostics http://www.accu-chek.com I signed up for a freebie and free skins to come in the mail. Advantages include customized skins and data upload capability. Sample size is a relatively average 0.6 microliters, with 5 second response time. Disadvantages include a relatively high cost of strips, plus the data link is done via the same proprietary serial-to-infrared cable offered when I was using the Accu-Chek Active six years ago. (At the time, Accu-Chek said their monitors would work with any infrared port, but I found that not to be the case in reality.)
- Abbott Freestyle family: Abbott Diabetes Care http://www.abbottdiabetescare.com I signed up for the new Freestyle Lite, whose only advantage over the older Freestyle is that strips don't need to be coded. I don't see that "advantage" as worth the extra cost of the strips (not that I'm paying for strips under my current insurance). Advantages to all the Freestyle meters include the small sample size of 0.3 microliter; both the Flash series and the Lite series also have a 7 second response time, and the non-Freedom models also have back and port lights -- on what is one of the smallest meters around. One major disadvantage is that the data cable is still the same serial cable that was supposed to have been replaced by a USB cable four years ago, when the Flash was first introduced. I have not had a serial port on my main system for nearly two years! This makes it a serious effort to upload the meter, and easier to just enter data by hand.
- One Touch Ultra2: Johnson & Johnson http://www.lifescan.com The third of the "major" brand freebies I signed up for. I chose this over the Mini for a couple of reasons: the Mini is actually slightly larger than my Freestyle Flash, with fewer features (other than color!), and I want to see how the "before/after meals" option works. Advantages include USB connectivity and "meals" and other averaging/trend views directly on the meter. Disadvantages: One Touch meters tend to have the highest cost of consumables of any meter, and the 1 microliter sample size is larger than average.
- Advocate Duo TD-3223 Talking Blood Glucose plus Blood Pressure Monitor: Diabetic Supply of Suncoast, Inc. http://www.dsosi.com/ I am very much intrigued by this class of dual-purpose meter, as having an integrated glucometer and sphygmomanometer would mean one less device for me to carry around... and if the datalink software can handle "both sides" of the device and integrate them, that would be superb! The Advocate is the least expensive of this class of dual-action monitor, costing only $43.49 at American Diabetes Warehouse (ADW), with strips there running a reasonable $16.99 per 50. Blood sample size is an average 0.7 microliters, with a 10-second readout time, 450 in-device memories, and 7/14/30/60/90 day averaging. The datalink cable is a separate-purchase USB cable, which is $23.99 at ADW. What's there not to like? While the software appears to handle both BG and BP uploads, the two sets of measurements are handled completely separately, and there appears to be no option for manual data entry. Still, for less than the cost of the average wrist-based blood pressure monitor, I can get that and an integrated glucometer, which has inexpensive strips, and a USB datalink connection. Wow.
- Agamatrix Wavesense: Agamatrix http://www.wavesense.info I've been hearing a lot of good press on this guy. Its innovative measurement technology is supposed to be able to filter out the effects of ambient temperature and foreign substances (like balsamic vinegar, which throws my readings off even after washing my hands five times with soap and warm water). It's "Zero-Click" software, via USB connection, should be a godsend to computer newbies and folk who don't have the time to spend manipulating the raw data themselves. Initial cost is a reasonable $25.99 at ADW, and strips a moderate $18.49 per 50. Disadvantages include a whopping $44.99 at CVS.com for the data management system (ADW does not seem to carry it), and a basic system which does not appear to allow user input or customization.
- Clever Chek Auto Code Blood Glucose Monitoring System: Simple Diagnostics http://www.simplediagnostics.com/documents/25.html Guess what? This off-brand monitor company is giving out free monitors to folk in the US who are willing to sign up at http://www.simplediagnostics.com/documents/74.html Specs include an average 0.7 microliter sample size, 450 memories, and 7/14/21/28/60/90 day averages in-meter. If you should need to purchase one of these babies, it's only $12.99 at ADW, with strips a moderate $16.79 per 50. Simple Diagnostics also sells a combo glucometer/sphygmomanometer, but it is not available at ADW. Downsides? There doesn't appear to be a datalink on the standalone glucometer. The 2-in-1 does support a USB-based datalink, but there is no information on the site as to where the proprietary data cable can be acquired.
- Prestige IQ Diabetes Meter: Home Diagnostics, Inc. http://www.homediagnostics.com This is the cheaper version of the ubiquitous "store brand" meter. Whether you get it from CVS, Walgreen's, Brooks, or your local supermarket, you get an inexpensive meter -- often free with the purchase of 100 strips at $15 to $20 per 50 (50 strips cost is $16.65 at ADW) with 365 memories and 14/30/90 day in-meter averaging. Sample size and response time were not available on the site, but you can direct-purchase a USB datalink cable for $19.99 and download the software, or purchase the entire data management kit for $29.99. The strip design looks like it may take a larger sample and be a bit difficult to use, but it may be worth it for something with cheap strips, readily available. Note that Home Diagnostics also makes the Sidekick disposable monitor, and the more expensive store-branded TrueTrack and TrueRead monitors.
- Easy Check Diabetes Meter: Home Aide Diagnostics, Inc. http://www.homeaidediagnostics.com Yes, Virginia, there really is a Santa Claus. Well, maybe. An inexpensive meter ($29.99 MSRP), cheap strips ($13.79 for 50 at ADW), moderate 0.5 microliter sample size, 7-second response time, 450 memories, 7/14/21/28/60/90 day in-meter averaging, ambient temperature display, and free downloadable software. That is, if the link to the software worked -- it came up with a 404 - File Not Found error when I tried to connect. Worse, the site has no indication as to how and where to acquire the necessary USB connector cable.
- Ultimate EZ Smart Plus Diabetes Glucose Monitoring System: Tyson Bioresearch, Inc. http://www.tysonbio.com/english/biosensor.html Based on what I'm able to cobble together on this, it's "cheap" in all senses of the word. Following the specs on ADW's Web site, this appears to be a repackaging of Tyson Bio's EZ Smart 168. For a $9.79 investment, you get a monitor with a miniscule 28 memories, without time or date or any averaging capabilities, a moderate 10-second response time, and a whopping large 1.5 microliter blood sample. Furthermore, there is no datalink capability, and at $17.79 per 50 strips at ADW, there are less expensive options with greater capabilities.
- Bionime Rightest GM300 Blood Glucose Monitoring Kit: Bionime http://www.bionime.com/en/3_1.htm For everything that is Really Basic about this monitor, Bionime has done at least two things right: the USB connector cable is packaged with the meter, and the DIABASS software that comes with it is meter-agnostic, with the ability to download drivers for other monitors for a nominal 5€ fee. For your $13.79 investment at ADW, or MSRP of $69.95, you get the meter, cable, and software -- a bargain if you are getting the complete, un-tailored DIABASS software which the developer sells for 50€ -- but with it, you'll have to put up with a 1.4 microliter blood sample. Still, for the average off-brand $16.79 for 50 strips, 8 second response time, 300 memories, and 1/7/14/30 day in-meter averaging, it may be worth it.
Of course, these are not the only “off-brand” meters on the market – but, at least once in a while, it’s a good thing to stop looking at the “wizard” and check behind the curtain to see what’s going on. Maybe, just maybe, it’s hiding the right combination platter for one’s metering needs.