2011 Consumer Guide
We've researched more than 100 products for managing diabetes, talking to manufacturers, diabetes experts, and users—real people with diabetes—about what matters most.
Blood Glucose Meters
Purchasing diabetes products can be intimidating. You're charged with picking a single meter out of six dozen on the market. Or you need to choose among continuous glucose monitors, but you don't know the differences in their calibration periods—or whether that's even important. (Or what a calibrationperiod is, for that matter.) The details are complex, and the stakes are high.
The Diabetes Forecast Consumer Guide can help. This annual compendium is designed for you, the person who has to use these products every day. We've focused on the six categories of diabetes management products in which consumers have a real choice. But you won't see a "top picks" section—our opinions aren't what's important here. The best product is the one that works best for you.
You also won't see a list of prices. Since insurance companies, Medicare, and Medicaid cover part or all of most products, the amount each person will pay differs. If your insurance company covers little of an item's price, you may pay more than a friend whose insurance company covers the majority of the total cost.
Although the Guide is a terrific starting point, you may want to do additional research. Friends and family members with diabetes can tell you about the products that have helped them. Diabetes educators are often familiar with a broad range of products, and yours may be able to advise you on key features or whether a company's customer service is top-notch. Plus, some health care providers keep sample devices on hand so you can get a feel for them before you buy. In the end, the more knowledge you have, the better choice you'll make in finding a product to help you manage your diabetes well.
What's New & Notable
Since last year's guide, a few new products have hit the market that are worth noting.
MiniMed Paradigm Real-Time Revel
Medtronic's latest device is a two-in-one insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor. Not only does it deliver insulin around the clock, but it also monitors glucose levels continuously via an under-the-skin sensor that wirelessly relays data to the pump. That makes it as close to closing the loop between glucose monitoring and insulin delivery as commercially available diabetes devices currently get.
The latest lancing device from LifeScan features an extra-thin (33 gauge) needle and seven depth settings. The device guides the lancet into the skin to reduce needle vibration and pain. It uses only OneTouch Delica lancets.
This blood glucose meter from Bayer plugs into a Nintendo DS or DS Lite handheld game player. By testing regularly and keeping their blood glucose at target levels, kids get points to use in a game, Knock 'Em Downs World's Fair, included with the meter.
Ultra Fine Nano
This pen needle from BD is now the smallest, thinnest one on the market: 32 gauge and 4 mm long.
Created by a doctor who has diabetes, TiniBoy lancets are the shortest, smallest available. They're 36 gauge, 0.18 mm in diameter, and 0.7 mm long (compared with, say, BD's Ultra Fine lancet, which is 30 gauge, 0.3 mm in diameter, and 3 mm long).
What's On The Horizon
The Consumer Guide lists products that were on the market as of Oct. 1, 2010. Other products were on the cusp of being released when this issue went to press or are expected in the not-too-distant future.
One of the most anticipated new products of the year is Debiotech's tubeless Jewel "patch" pump. The Jewel is just under half an inch thick yet its reservoir holds 450 units of insulin. Not only that, but you can deliver a bolus via the patch pump itself. The base of the pump (which holds the reservoir) is disposed of after six days while the hard outer casing is reusable. But what most sets this pump apart is its lack of a handheld remote. Instead, the Jewel works with any smart phone that runs on an Android operating system. Phone functions—receiving calls, text messages, and e-mails—are suspended when your phone is in pump mode, so you can adjust your dose, deliver a bolus, or fine-tune system settings without interruptions. Swiss manufacturer Debiotech says the system is awaiting Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval and may be released at the end of 2011.
Insulin pump users looking for a thin, sleek device may be pleased with Tandem's t:slim pump. The pump, which is 25 percent slimmer than current versions on the market, features a high-contrast, color touch screen. Despite its thinner profile, the t:slim will hold 300 units of insulin. It does not have FDA approval yet.
Like the MiniMed Paradigm Real-Time Revel, also from Medtronic, the Veo is an insulin pump and CGM all in one. Unlike the Revel, though, the Veo automatically suspends insulin delivery when glucose drops too low. The system is currently undergoing additional clinical trials, and while it's on the market in Europe, Canada, and the Middle East, the Veo has yet to be approved by the FDA for use stateside.
Sanofi-Aventis and AgaMatrix have teamed up to create a USB-sized meter that turns an iPhone or iPod Touch into a blood glucose meter. Use the small device alone in a pinch (its face displays the reading), or plug it into an iPhone or iPod to check blood glucose levels, make notes, chart trends, and analyze results using the Diabetes Manager app. The iBGStar was
pending submission to the FDA at press time.
WaveSense Direct Connect Cable
This cable is designed to connect AgaMatrix's Jazz meter with an iPhone or iPod Touch so results are transmitted automatically. From there, users can graph glucose levels, track trends, and annotate readings with the WaveSense app. The Direct Connect Cable is pending FDA approval and is not yet for sale.
AgaMatrix's Jazz Wireless meter allows for wireless transfer of data from meter to computer using Bluetooth technology. While the Jazz Wireless is FDA approved, it's not yet available to consumers.
Fora Care D30, D40, POCT, and G31
Fora Care is prepping to release two blood glucose monitors (the G31 and POCT) and two combined blood glucose/blood pressure monitors (the D30 and D40). Most notable are the G31 and D40. Both let users wirelessly transmit data to a computer.
A few years ago, Pfizer abandoned its inhaled insulin, Exubera, due to poor sales. But MannKind Corp. hopes the market is ready for another inhalable insulin. Afrezza is an ultra rapid–acting mealtime insulin powder that's delivered via a compact inhaler. The company's data show that Afrezza lowers blood glucose levels as effectively as traditional injected insulin. The medication has been submitted to the FDA and is awaiting approval.