FAQ: Straight Talk on Diabetes and Diabetic Testing Supplies

Information on freediabetestestsupplies.com is NOT to be taken as qualified medical advice. Answers are based upon our own personal research and experiences, which may or may not apply to your condition. We are not experts. We are simply relating our own experiences. Always consult your physician or health care provider if you have any serious medical questions.

Why is it that so many places are giving away “free meters” for Diabetes Testing these days?

As you might well imagine, someone has to pay for all of those “free” blood glucose meters handed out in Doctor’s offices, through TV and radio ads and over the Internet. In almost all instances, it is the Diabetes patient or taxpayer who winds up picking up the tab. The reason that manufacturers of these devices can afford to give them away for free is actually quite simple. These devices are absolutely worthless without the appropriate brand of test strip to use them with. The manufacturer is willing to lose a small amount of money up-front when giving away the meters, knowing that they will make a huge profit selling their proprietary test strips. These strips retail for anywhere between $.50 and $1.50 for each use, and many Diabetics need to test their blood glucose levels 3 times a day. At that rate, the manufacturer makes enough in profits to pay for the meter many times over in the first few days or weeks after you have received it. There are currently no “generic” test strips on the market. Each company’s meter will only work with THEIR test strips, so they can charge anything they want for them. This is very similar to the marketing tactic used by a number of companies to sell inkjet printers. The printers themselves are often sold at or below cost. It is only after you find out that it costs $30 for a new cartridge after you run out of ink that you realize how they make their money.

What Are “Self-Destructing” Blood Glucose Meters?

One new trick of blood glucose monitor manufacturers that I find particularly disgusting is also patterned on marketing methods that began in the computer printer industry. This is the “self-destructing” blood glucose meter. Many diabetics fail to use all of their blood glucose test strips within the expiration date printed on the bottle. It’s not at all uncommon for diabetics to forget to test themselves, when they are supposed be doing it three times a day. This irks the manufacturers of meters, since it means that diabetics will buy their expensive test strips less often. The solution? Now, when you place a test strip in a blood glucose monitor that is beyond the expiration date, the meter will suddenly “die”. Permanently. Since the units are not repairable, you will not only need to buy a whole new batch of test strips, but get a new meter as well. What irks me most about this is the fact that most diabetes patients will be unable to test their blood sugar levels for at least several days, while they await a new meter and test strips in the mail. I won’t mention the particular brand of meter that is most famous for this, but I wouldn’t doubt that this will soon become a standard practice in the industry.

Why Are There Suddenly So Many Ads on TV for Diabetes Products?

To put it simply, there is big, big money to be made in healthcare these days, especially here in the United States. American culture over the past two decades has emphasized a more convenient lifestyle. We have come to rely upon mircrowave food, instant breakfast, fast food delivery, games that are played while sitting in front of the TV and (ironically) drive-thru pharmacies. The population is becoming increasingly obese, getting less exercise and are eating foods that only help contribute to our poor health. These factors have caused the number of Diabetes sufferers to skyrocket in recent years, along with associated health problems like strokes, heart attacks and other circulatory problems. Since we live in a “supply and demand” economy, there is now plenty of demand for products to help treat our health problems. Most of these products and services are expensive. Very expensive. With that much money at stake, the healthcare industry is attracting plenty of attention from both investors and other companies that wish to expand into more profitable areas. Unfortunately, there is very little money to be made in “curing” any particular disease. The big money is in treatment, since treatment provides a long-term revenue stream for the companies selling treatments. As long as our population continues to get sicker and sicker, you will see increasing numbers of health-related advertising.

Is There A Cure For Diabetes?

No. There is no cure for either Type One or Type Two Diabetes, and there is unlikely to be one anytime soon. However, there are plenty of treatments available. Treatments are not a cure, and most must be taken daily in order to keep blood sugar (glucose) levels within a reasonable range. The most common treatments are insulin injections or prescription medications that are taken orally.

How Do I Know If I Have Diabetes?

The only way to know for certain is to have your Doctor diagnose you. In order to do so, you will generally be required to take an A1C glucose tolerance test. This test requires you to give a very small blood sample, generally at a Doctor’s office or lab. Test results are usually available within minutes, if not seconds. They are very similar to blood glucose monitoring tests that you would take at home. This test gives the most accurate diagnosis. If, for whatever reason, you can/will not see a physician, a much less scientific test is to obtain a blood glucose testing kit at a local pharmacy or drug store. Walgreen’s sells a disposable version for around $20, which includes a number of test strips. Normal blood sugar levels are generally around 80-120. Anything lower than that indicates that you may be suffering from hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. This could either be a symptom of Diabetes or not. If your blood glucose levels are consistenly higher than normal, there is a good chance that you are already suffering from Diabetes and should seek medical attention immediately.

How High Is Too High?

Many Diabetics become understandably concerned if their blood glucose levels suddenly rise to a higher level than normal. The first thing you should investigate in these instances is whether your blood glucose monitor may be malfunctioning. Test strips that are outdated, have different codes than the meter is currently set to or have been exposed to a harsh environment may give false readings. Be sure that your meter is functioning correctly. Without effective treatment, Diabetes sufferers have been known to have blood glucose levels of well over 1,000. In many cases, there are few if any symptoms when blood glucose levels rise this high, and almost never any outward symptoms. It is not uncommon at all for levels to rise to 500 or more for extended periods without a person noticing.

When Are High Blood Glucose Levels an “Emergency”?

This question is difficult to answer, as few Doctors seem to want to give a specific number as to what constitutes an “emergency”. Most certainly, anything approaching a blood glucose level of 1,000 is very serious, and likely requires either a trip to your local Emergency Room or a same-day appointment with your physician at the very least. In some cities, you may actually be able to schedule an urgent request to see your Doctor in less time than it would take you to be seen in an Emergency Room. This will obviously vary significantly from one area to another though. In some urban areas, patients have been known to be left sitting in Emergency Rooms waiting to be seen for 20 hours or more. The average wait time to see a physician at an Emergency Room in my own town seems to be around 5 hours. Those with outward symptoms of physical trauma are generally seen faster than those suffering from diseases with no outward symptoms such a Diabetes. In any event, most cases of high blood sugar can usually be handled by an appointment with your physician to formulate a better solution for your current situation. If in doubt, get to the ER right away or dial 911 for help. This is especially true is you start to become confused or disoriented.

UPDATE: I recently had a quite serious bout with high glucose levels after failing to pack my insulin with me on a short trip. I DID remember to take my blood glucose monitor with me though. It was because of this that I discovered a new “feature” of my OneTouch Ultra blood glucose meter. If your blood glucose level is over 600, it will NOT display a reading. It will only flash the word “HI” on the LCD screen instead. Although this was definitely alarming (was it 600 or 6,000? I had no way of knowing) I was able to make it back home to get an insulin shot within a few hours. It was a holiday weekend in a small town, and we have no 24 hour pharmacies. So, I was lucky to still have some left. I didn’t have to go the the Emergency Room or even call my Doctor (as if they were available). The shot seemed to bring my blood sugar levels down within an hour or so. I have no idea how high my blood glucose was that day, but it was definitely over 600, and I did not require any hospitalization or other extreme measures.

Do You Need a Prescription To Buy A Blood Glucose Monitor, or Diabetes Testing Supplies?

No. Although you will find most diabetes testing supplies and blood glucose monitors “behind the counter” at your local pharmacy, this is more to prevent theft than anything else. Anyone can buy a blood glucose monitor, test strips, lancets or lancing devices over-the-counter, without a prescription or identification of any kind. Buying syringes (for insulin injections) is an entirely different matter though. There are usually local and state laws that prohibit possessing syringes without a valid prescription. Test strips, lancets and monitors can be bought at most drug stores, or online at places like Amazon.Com. Keep in mind though, most diabetic patients can get these same blood sugar monitors for free from their Doctors. Test strips are usually covered by insurance. Lancets are really the only diabetes testing supply that makes any financial sense to buy over-the-counter, without relying upon insurance or free samples. Lancets and lancing devices are rather universal in nature, so prices for these devices are relatively cheap. They might even cost less than your current insurance co-pay. Pretty much all brands are the same, our advice is to find the most inexpensive brand you feel comfortable with, and stick with them.

What Is the Most Effective Treatment For Diabetes?

This is a very difficult question to answer, since it depends mostly upon the person. What works best for one person may not work at all for someone else. I’m going to confine this discussion to Type 2 Diabetes, since Type 1 always requires the use of some type of insulin, and far fewer treatment options are available. If you have Type Two Diabetes, it could be due to several factors. If you are overweight, get little exercise, have a poor diet and no family history of diabetes, it may be possible to “cure” diabetes, simply by changing your eating and exercise habits. This is definitely preferable to taking oral medications for diabetes, which can become less and less effective over time. Eating a balanced diet, getting moderate exercise each day and getting plenty of sleep could be all that you need in this case. On the other hand, if you have an established family history of diabetes, eat well, are not seriously overweight, get regular exercise and STILL end-up with Type II diabetes, your problems may in fact be heridetary. In this case, you likely will be started out on oral medications, many of which are very effective at treating symptoms and leveling your blood sugar levels. However, if oral medications do not work, you will likely end-up being prescribed insulin injections. These days, most insulin users take twice-a-day shots that come in disposable one-use injectors. These are generally slow-release insulin products, which are much less work and much more effective than the more frequent injections needed by Type 1 diabetes sufferers. The treatment of “last resort”, which seems to be a more popular option than ever these days (especially among children with Type 1 Diabetes) is the insulin pump. These devices are pretty much permanently attached to you, much like a pacemaker. Only, insulin pumps have to be worn externally, and require a needle to be inserted in you at all times. Insulin pump devices help to monitor blood sugar levels, and release insulin into the bloodstream, as necessary. Use of diabetic test strips is still required, as is manual monitoring and adjustment. The main advantage of insulin pumps is the fact that you will not need to stick yourself with a new needle for every insulin injection. You can also “wear” your insulin as a disposable patch, rather than having to carry insulin with you or worry about refrigeration issues. The main drawback to insulin pumps is cost. Most models cost several thousand dollars. The proprietary test strips, patches and specially formulated insulin are also more expensive than their non-pump counterparts.

How will the new health care reform legislation affect me as a diabetic?

This is a difficult question to answer, as practical details as to how the new law will apply in “real life” are still up in the air, and are definitely subject to change. If you are already covered under MediCare, little should change for you. If you receive health care insurance coverage from your employer, it is very likely that you will have to contribute more money each month or that the business may terminate its health care plan altogether, since the new law actually makes it cheaper for businesses to pay fines for not providing their employees with insurance than it is for them to actually pay for it. If you are living above the poverty level and do not have health care insurance there is good news. Insurance companies will not be able to refuse coverage to anyone based on pre-existing conditions, including diabetes. The bad news is, this will cost the insurance companies a LOT of money, and the costs will surely be passed on to their policyholders in the form of increased premiums and/or decreased coverage. Either way, your income taxes will be going up as well. If you are indigent and don’t already qualify for health coverage from your state, Obamacare provides that states may organize insurance “pools” from private insurance companies at rates that are yet to be determined. Some states are choosing not to participate in these pools, so nothing will change for consumers in those states. For those in states that do participate, initial reports seem to indicate that premiums and out of pocket expenses can be equal to, or higher than, many existing insurance plans. Those most negatively affected will be those who are young and healthy, and who do not carry insurance. They will be forced to buy health insurance or pay a penalty each year to the Internal Revenue Service. Those who are poor, can not afford health insurance and receive free medication under Patient Assistance Programs will also be hard hit through higher taxes and possible cancellation of their free assistance from drug companies.

Why Has The Cost Of Diabetic Testing Supplies Suddenly Gone Up?

This is a rather complex question, but we will do our best to explain. Due to a continued recession in the United States, along with the continuing devaluation of the American Dollar, investors have sought shelter in “safer” investments than those dependent upon the stability of U.S. currency. Since 2011, the price of gold in particular has skyrocketed to record highs, while inflation causes the dollar to be worth less and less each year. Gold is a key material used in the construction of both microprocessors used in test meters as well as (more importantly) the manufacture of blood glucose test strips. The small, gold leads you see at the end of a test strip are made out of just that… gold. In fact, it has now become the most expensive component in the manufacture of diabetic test strips. With the price of gold having tripled in recent years and the value of the dollar continuing to fall, it is inevitable that the price of blood glucose test strips will continue to rise for the foreseeable future.

Is It O.K. To Re-Use Insulin Syringes?

Although syringes are not technically a testing supply, the cost of needles for insulin dependent diabetics has become an increasing issue for those without health insurance. Disposable “one-time-use” syringes for diabetics are available from numerous manufacturers and vary greatly in terms of cost and quality. Many diabetics who must pay for their own syringes opt to use one of the many inexpensive, generic brands. Often, these are the same needles used at veterinarian’s offices to treat small animals with diabetes. The needles used on these syringes are usually duller than that of name brands, which sometimes results in more pain at the injection site. The more often any syringe is re-used, the duller they will get. The more expensive brands tend to be sharper and are often used more than once before being disposed of. As long as the needles are handled in a sterile manner the main danger in re-using syringes is that long-term re-use could cause a needle to shear or break during an injection. To the best of our knowledge, no studies or statistics are available showing how often this would be expected to occur. One study that can be pointed to however appeared in the March-April 1984 edition of Diabetes Care. In a summary of the findings, “Fourteen insulin-dependent diabetic children reused their disposable syringe-needle units an average of 6.3 times per needle. Between uses, the needle was wiped with alcohol and stored in the refrigerator. There were no infections reported during the study for an average duration of 94 days. Dullness of the needle was the major reason for changing to a new one. Recurrent use of disposable needles for insulin injections appears safe in children and may be advised. It will help decrease some of the high cost of the daily care of a person with diabetes.” A copy of the article can be downloaded as an Adobe Acrobat file at http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/7/2/118.full.pdf.