How to Use Control Solution
Just a drop shows how your meter and strips are working together
Of all your diabetes to-do’s, using control solution to run a check on your meter and test strips may be a low priority. Yet if you’re worried about how your meter system is working, control solution can give you peace of mind.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggests using control solution:
- Every time you open a new container of test strips
- Occasionally as you use the container of test strips
- If you drop the meter
- Whenever you get unusual results (high or low)
Some meter companies also suggest other reasons to use control solution: before testing with a new meter for the first time and when blood glucose results don’t reflect how you feel.
Unfortunately, the cost and hassle of ordering the perishable liquid, as well as having to use a precious test strip, may cause people to ignore control solution. Retail cost of the solution, which is a mixture of water, glucose, viscosity modifier, salt, preservatives, and dye, ranges from $6 to $15. “A vial holds about 200 drops—way more than a patient is going to use in the three months [90 days] after the vial is opened,” says Randy Byrd, chief technical officer at Bio-Techne, which makes the solution at its Bionostics site in Massachusetts on behalf of meter companies.
Bio-Techne had a bright idea to make control solution more available and cut down on waste. Several years ago, the company patented a single-use foil pack, sized to fit into a carton of test strips.
So far, however, Byrd says no meter makers have included the single-use option in their product lines. Byrd says meter companies are looking to trim product costs, especially after Medicare reduced the amount reimbursed for diabetes testing supplies. Meter makers and the FDA may need to hear more demand from meter users before improvements are made in how the solution is packaged and sold.
Control Solution Tips
Things to keep in mind about control solution
- Discard an open vial after 90 days. When you open a new vial, write the date on it.
- Discard expired solution, even if unopened.
- Check the range of glucose values. Many systems require two vials of solution: one checks values in the low range, the other in the high range. Often both vials are sold together.
- Know your meter model when you reorder solution. Some brands use the same control solution for all meter models. Other brands have control solution specific to the model.
- Ask your doctor for a prescription. Many insurance plans (including Medicare Part B) include coverage for control solution, but you’ll need a prescription.
- Read your meter manual. It shows how to run a control solution test, if your meter system includes that function. The insert in the control solution box may not provide full how-to’s.
- Call the manufacturer. If a control solution result is out of the range printed on your test strip vial, check that your strips and solution are not expired. Repeat the test. If the result is still out of range, call your meter maker for further instructions. Do not make major eating, medication dosing, or other treatment changes based on results from the meter.
Consumers can report serious medical device problems to the FDA at MedWatch, www.fda.gov/safety/medwatch, or through the MedWatcher app.