Regimens: Questioning Benefit of Diabetes Test Strips
People with Type 2 diabetes are often advised to use blood-glucose test strips to monitor their blood sugar levels, but a Canadian analysis has found that routine self-monitoring is not cost-effective for many patients: the strips can cost almost a dollar each, and they prevent comparatively few complications of diabetes.
The finding was part of an analysisthat prompted the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health to issue a nonbinding recommendation against routine self-monitoring for many Type 2 diabetics — those who do not take insulin.
Experts in the United States said more studies were needed, but they emphasized that glucose test strips, which are covered by insurance, could be helpful for adjusting diet, exercise and drug regimens.
In addition, they are recommended for Type 2 patients who take insulin or the drugs called sulfonylureas, which stimulate insulin production; those patients are at risk forhypoglycemia, or very low blood sugar.
But for other Type 2 patients, the test strips’ benefits fall off sharply.
Another Canadian study reported that more than 1,000 patients would need to use the strips regularly to prevent a single case of kidney failure, for example, and about 500 would need to be treated to prevent a single stroke, amputation or case of blindness.
Rather than rely on test strips, Canadian experts said, patients need to be vigilant about their diet, exercise, weight and blood pressure.
“The message we’d like to impart to those living with Type 2 Diabetes,” said Barb Shea, vice president of the health agency, “is that it takes more than testing your blood to look after your health.”