If diabetes has an up side, one good thing about the huge number of people who have it is that we make an attractive market for people who want to sell to us. Nowhere is this more clear than in the many blood glucose meters that companies offer us.
The choices are overwhelming. My meters page lists and links several dozen blood glucose meters that 34 companies would like us to use.
Because of all this competition for our dollars, we don't need a lot of money to buy a decent meter. In fact, more and more meter manufacturers give away their meters.
This "freebie marketing" gives away a sellable item for nothing to generate a continual market for another, generally disposable, item. A guy named King Gillette pioneered this approach to get us to buy his razor blades.
You can get almost every blood glucose meter for nothing, if you know where to look or who to ask. The newest meter is a case in point.
US Diagnostics in New York City just introduced its Maxima Blood Glucose Monitoring System with a list price of $9.95 for the meter kit, including the meter and the control solution. But you can get two boxes of 50 test strips for $16.99 per box. That's 34 cents each.
Many manufacturers would love to give you their meters so you can buy their overpriced test strips, some of which sell for as much as a dollar per strip. About four years ago when I wrote about "Stripping Down the Cost of Testing" for Diabetes Health magazine, the least expensive of the 14 meter manufacturers at that time was US Diagnosics, which offered strips for its earlier generation "EasyGluco" meter for 36 cents each.
Don't count on getting all the bells and whistles with basic meters like those that US Diagnosics offers. You don't get any software to automatically upload your blood glucose readings to your computer. And you still have to code the device, meaning that you still have to match the code number on the vial to a code you enter into the meter.
But all that you do get with a Maxima meter shows how far meters have come since Tom Clemens filed a patent application for the first one, the Ames Reflectance Meter, in April 1968. That meter needed a 10 microliter drop of blood and took a minute to show the test result. Perhaps even more important, it cost at least $495 (the first person to buy one remembers that it cost him $650) -- the equivalent of more than $2,750 in today's money.
The Maxima meter not only has a much better price but also much better basic statistics. It takes only a 0.5 microliter drop of blood. It returns the test result in 5 seconds.
It also seems to be pretty accurate in my comparison tests. If you have read my articles about meters for the last few years, you know how much the lack of accuracy standards has troubled me.
But US Diagnostics does seem to care about accuracy too. "Maxima Meter gives maximum accuracy," Jennifer Kupar, the company's director of operations, tells me.
I asked her what was most special about this meter. "It represents a breakthrough value for end users who demand leading-edge technology (biosensor), quality, ease of use, and accuracy, quality customer support, and affordability."
One of the product inserts with the Maxima meter includes some technical language about its accuracy and precision (consistency). I asked Jennifer to put that into language that laypeople could understand.
"The accuracy of Maxima system was assessed by comparing blood glucose results obtained by patients with those obtained using the YSI Model 2300 Glucose Analyzer, a laboratory instrument," she replied. "A fine and direct correlation between YSI Model 2300 and Maxima were confirmed in the 304 blood samples with the correlation coefficient R=0.99. The results indicate that the use of Maxima system generates results similar to the YSI Model 2300 Glucose Analyzer, a laboratory instrument used in hospitals to test glucose concentration."
The Maxima meter may not be maximally sophisticated. But, especially for those of us who test our blood glucose a lot, it well could offer maximum value.