How important is the way a glucose meter takes readings? In a recent press release, American Diabetes Services (ADS) endorsed Ascensia contour test strips, saying they significantly reduced inaccuracies in glucose readings. The other meters they tested weren't necessarily inaccurate when used correctly, but both One Touch and Freestyle glucose meters required test strip coding, while Ascensia's test strips require no coding. Why should this make enough of a difference to cause the ADS to take notice?
Most glucose meters use a plastic test strip dosed with glucose oxidase. These strips can vary from batch to batch, and most test strips will have a code or a chip for the user to enter before using the meter with the new batch of strips. Entering the code calibrates the glucose meter and the diabetic test strips so that the reading will be accurate, based on the amount of glucose oxidase on the strips in the package.
However, if the user forgets to recode the meter when he or she begins to use a new box of test strips, or if the user enters the code improperly, the readings will be incorrect. The inaccuracies vary, but the readings can be off by as much as 43%. For people actively managing diabetes, an incorrect meter can mean taking the wrong dose of insulin, which significantly increases that person's risk of hypoglycaemia and other diabetes-related complications.
Why Don't Ascensia Test Strips Have to be Coded?
Unlike most glucose meters, Ascensia Contour test strips and meters are self-calibrating. Ascensia's "no coding" claim isn't that no coding is involved, but that it doesn't have to be done manually. While most test strips require the user to enter a code, insert a coding strip, or insert a chip into the glucose meter, Ascensia meters automatically calibrate by checking the strip electronically when it is inserted into the meter, and the Bayer company, which makes the Ascensia Contour and Ascensia Breeze meter, claims that it cannot be miscoded using this system.
Should I Switch?
The study did not find significant accuracy discrepancy between Ascensia meters and other brands of meters when the devices were coded correctly. The reason for ADS's endorsement has almost everything to do with the frequency of human error. If the meter is coded improperly, the results could be potentially dangerous; if the user is careful to double check when switching boxes, he or she shouldn't have any significant problems testing glucose levels. The question comes down to self-evaluation. Users must ask themselves whether they are prone to carelessness or impatience when they are performing a task that has to be repeated day after day. Meters without coding simply take out one more place where human error can occur.
Ascensia products are not significantly more expensive than other meters, and are actually less expensive than some. While some diabetics may not have a choice because of Medicare requirements, if they choose to avoid the hassle of coding a meter from another company, the price should not be much of a deterrent.