Free blood glucose monitor & free test strips at Walgreen’s, but there’s a catch. Why free blood glucose monitors might not be the best option for diabetics.
Diabetics have a large array of options available to them today when it comes to buying blood glucose monitors. While many brand name meters with advanced features can run you upwards of $100 or more, most diabetics have traditionally chosen to stick with the meter and test strips prescribed by their Physicians. With today’s high health insurance co-pays and more Americans losing affordable health care coverage than ever though, more and more diabetics are looking to find more affordable alternatives. Free is even better.
That certainly makes the latest offer from Walgreen’s Pharmacy look attractive. The company is currently selling a pair of private label blood glucose meters in their stores called the TRUEresult and TRUE2go Meter. The latter meter retails for $9.99 and has a coupon on the box stating, “FREE METER! After mail-in rebate.”. While this may seem like a great deal at first glance, it really pushes the envelope when it comes to the meaning of “free”.
The rebate form is printed on a (approximately) 2″ x 4″ scrap of paper, so small that it would seem nearly impossible to enter legible information in the space provided, and the terms and conditions are very clear that they will not accept photocopies or alternate forms as a substitute. This doesn’t bode very well for odds that you will ultimately get your money back in our experience.
As for the meter itself, you are pretty much getting what you pay for. It consists of a small LCD display that snaps on the top of a canister of test strips. You get a total of 10 test strips with the meter. Enough to last the average diabetic about 3 days. There is no coding, nor are there any adjustments that can be made via the single button under the display. The blood glucose monitor retains a memory of the last 99 blood tests. The tests are not time or date stamped though, so the memory feature really is of no practical use. I’m sure that the manufacturer would probably argue that adding time and date capability to the unit would make it unnecessarily complicated, for a meter that would seem to be designed to be as simple and “stupid proof” to operate as possible.
Speaking of which, this would seem to be the meter’s best, single feature. It is so simple that pretty much anyone could operate it with little or no instruction needed. With no adjustments to be made and a simple 3 digit LCD display to read, any diabetic who has experience using blood glucose monitors of any type in the past should be able to use this product right “out of the box”. It’s small size and cheap price make it a nice “back up” to your regular blood glucose monitor. According to the instructions, the strips will only last for four months once the canister is opened though, so you would need to replace these things fairly frequently. The strips should last longer if the canister remains sealed. The unit we evaluated had an expiration date nearly two years from the time of purchase.
Replacement test strips for these units are available only at Walgreen’s, and use a standard, proprietary technology that renders the free meters useless without buying replacement test strips manufactured by the same company. In other words, they are built like every other blood glucose monitor sold on the market today. Walgreen’s currently sells replacement strips in boxes of 50 for $19.99 or 100 for $49.99. That’s about 50 cents per test strip. Cheaper than the big, name brand competitors, but far from the cheapest test strips available if you do some shopping around.
Walgreen’s TRUE2go free blood glucose monitor makes for a decent “emergency” or “spare” unit, but we wouldn’t recommend it for your daily blood sugar readings, due to its limited features. We also wouldn’t recommend buying this monitor if you are really expecting to get it for free. If you ever do get your rebate, the manufacturer states that it will take at least two months to arrive. So, don’t hold your breath. The meter seems about worth what the company is charging for it though. $10 buys you a working meter and 10 test strips. No prescription is needed and no hassles dealing with insurance (if you do have insurance, it’s probably cheaper than your co-pay). Besides the lack of features, our only complaint about the meter is that the LCD screen is much smaller than that of most other meters, and can be a bit difficult to read. It’s also extremely slow. Although the instructions state that results are available “in as little as four seconds” we were never able to get a reading in less than 9-10 seconds. Slow, by today’s standards.
UPDATE: It seems that you can now get this “free” meter for even less than it’s original $9.99 price tag. Walgreens.Com is currently selling the units online for $4.99 each with a $4.99 mail-in rebate (one per household). They offer free shipping on orders over $25. A link directly to the product page is available HERE. Obviously, this offer may end at any time.