A spokesperson for Bayer Diabetes Care today confirmed that the company will stop making the device that is the best way we have to check our key blood glucose level.
When I called Susan Yarin, the spokesperson for Bayer’s diabetes care business, I asked her about the rumor that Bayer would stop making the A1CNow device at the end of the year. This device is the only way that we have to check our A1C levels at home and get immediate results.
"It’s not a rumor," Ms. Yarin replied. "I can confirm it."
She told me that Bayer would be closing down the facility that produces the A1CNow at the end of the year. A1CNow units "will be available as long as supplies are available."
I told her that I was dismayed and that, since I check my A1C level on the first day of every month, I had just ordered A1CNow+ units that Bayer makes for professionals. This is the same as the A1CNow SelfCheck that Bayer makes for patients and sells in pharmacies, except the professional version includes 10 tests while the patient version includes two tests. I purchased the 10-pack kit (1 monitor and 10 test cartridges) from A1CTest for $129.00 plus $8.95 shipping and handling. That works out to $13.80 per test. Most pharmacies sell the A1CNow SelfCheck for about $30, which is $15 per test plus tax.
If you test as often as I do, the A1CNow+ makes sense. Otherwise, the A1CNow SelfCheck is the way to go.
"The expiration date of the A1CNow+ is one year, when you keep it refrigerated, so I would assume that it is good for 18 months, because it does not self-destruct on that date," Pharmacist Steve Freed told me. He is the owner of the A1CTest site, where for years I have bought my A1CNow+ units. Steve also heads Diabetes in Control, one of the most valuable diabetes websites. "It is the same product that is in the two-pack retail product, which lasts 18 months plus."
The A1CNow isn’t going away immediately. "We will probably be able to supply them until the end of February," Steve says. We still have them available, although they are getting harder to get from Bayer, which is a month behind in sending orders."
Steve says that he can’t figure out why Bayer would discontinue the product, unless they were losing money. In 2006 Bayer bought Metrika Inc., which developed the A1CNow.
The NGSP (formerly the National Glycohemoglobin Standardization Program) certified the A1CNow as having documented traceability to the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial reference method, which established relationships between A1C levels and risk for complications of diabetes. The DCCT method is the gold standard for reliable A1C testing. For more, please see my 2009 article here, "A1CNow at Home."
Ms. Yarin, Bayer’s spokesperson, told me that Bayer is discontinuing the A1CNow to focus "on our core glucose monitoring products." These include the Contour Next meters, "which is an enhanced accuracy platform."
I asked her if Bayer might sell the facility that makes the A1CNow device to another company. "Our business plans are confidential," she replied.
Still, Steve Freed and I are hopeful that Metrika’s founder, Michael P. Allen, might buy back the company that he started in 1994. At presstime, however, we have not been able to reach him.
The demise of the A1CNow "will change the way medical professionals do screenings," Mr. Freed told me. "That means there are a lot of people with undiagnosed diabetes and especially the 30-50 million people with prediabetes that go to a screening. After December 31 the only home test will be a mail away and would be difficult to use that in a screening. All we do is hope that someone buys it or maybe the original Metrika people will get back in the picture."
If you have diabetes, the news about the A1CNow is just as grim. My only recommendation is to do as I do and stock up now.
David Mendosa is a journalist who learned in 1994 that he has type 2 diabetes, which he now writes about exclusively. He has written thousands of diabetes articles, two books about it, created one of the first diabetes websites, and publishes the monthly newsletter, “Diabetes Update.” His very low-carbohydrate diet, current A1C level of 5.3, and BMI of 19.8 keep his diabetes in remission without any drugs. He can be found on Twitter @davidmendosa and on Facebook at David Mendosa.