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Diabetes Testing

Best Blood Glucose Meters

If you use a blood glucose meters from one of the big four meter companies to check your level four times a day, you will probably pay anywhere from $1,700 to $2,300 each year. But if instead you test with a meter and strips from one of the “big box” stores, you would be out of pocket only about $600 to $800.

This is a useful bit of information from the latest Consumer Reports review of the “Best Blood Glucose Meters.” The magazine rates 21 meters in a brief article of one chart and five paragraphs in less than a page in its November 2012 issue.

The big box stores that sell some of the least expensive meters and test strips are Wal-Mart and Target. Wal-Mart has offered its ReliOn brand for years, but Target now offers its Up & Up brand.

Still, the wide price gap may be misleading. Each of the big four — LifeScan, Roche, Bayer, and Abbott — offer programs that can provide some of us test strips for considerably less.

Most people with diabetes will find the report, however brief, useful. It’s already on newsstands and, better yet, on the shelves of most libraries.

What Consumer Reports says is important. Published by the nonprofit Consumers Union and containing no ads, this is one of our largest circulation magazines. Two years ago it had a circulation of 7.3 million copies, according to a review of the magazine in The Wall Street Journal.

The magazine regularly reviews these meters, the most important tool that we have for managing our blood sugar. Four years ago I wrote here about its review of 13 meters from eight different manufacturers.

Other magazines also review our meters, notably Diabetes Forecast.Their review this past January provides some useful information, but it makes a point of noting that, “Diabetes Forecast doesn’t test or recommend products.”

Men’s Health has an article online reviewing the “10 Best Blood-Glucose Meters”. This article is undated, but according to the Wayback Machine, it’s been online since February. It fails to tell us how it conducted its tests.

Unfortunately, Consumer Reports also omits that vital information. Both of these magazines rate the meters on the basis of accuracy and consistency (which Consumer Reports calls repeatability). But neither publications says what standards they use, how many people they tested, how many tests each of these people made, or even what organization did the testing for them.

Still, since the accuracy of the meters we have to use are one of the most common questions people ask me, here are the 9 of 21 meters that Consumer Reports rates excellent for accuracy:

Accu-Chek Aviva
FreeStyle Freedom Lite
Accu-Chek Compact Plus
FreeStyle Lite
Bayer Breeze 2
Up & Up
ReliOn Micro
TrueResult Blood Glucose Monitoring Sytem
OneTouch Ultra2

Here’s are the six of the 10 meters that MensHealth rated excellent for accuracy:

OneTouch UltraMini
Ascencia Contour
OneTouch Ultra2
OneTouch UltraSmart
Nova Max
FreeStyle Lite

Most of us seem to care more about accuracy than consistency (or repeatability). But the latter is arguably even more important. It also seems to be rarer: Consumer Reports rated only five of the 21 meters that it tested as excellent in this respect:

FreeStyle Freedom Lite
Accu-Chek Compact Plus
FreeStyle Lite
OneTouch UltraSmart
OneTouch UltraMini

MensHealth thinks that only one of the 10 meters it tested rates excellent for consistency:

OneTouch UltraMini

Note that no one meter rated excellent in both accuracy and consistency in both reviews. But even more important, I think, is a strange anomaly that I wrote about in my earlier Consumer Report review of these meters. I wrote that here four years ago, and in the meantime spokespeople from LifeScan confirmed what I had written:

“More interesting, I think, is the meter model that the magazine rated excellent in consistency and accuracy. It’s LifeScan’s OneTouch UltraMini. The biggest surprise for me is that this inexpensive meter rates higher on consistency and accuracy than the two other LifeScan meters, the OneTouch Ultra2 and the OneTouch UltraSmart, that the article evaluated. All of these meters use the same test strips and technology.”

I also need to repeat two points that I made four years ago when I reviewed a previous Consumer Reports review of blood glucose meters.

I would have happier with the article if they had included one or more WaveSense meters from AgaMatrix. The technology of this smaller meter manufacturer seems to be superior in consistency and accuracy.

The magazine also missed the main value meter. US Diagnostics sells Maxima meters, which use the least expensive test strips currently available.

Consequently, I consider the new Consumer Reports article (and to a much lesser extent the MensHealth article) a useful addition to our knowledge of the blood sugar meters that we have to use. Useful, but hardly the last word.

This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.

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  • Lotetta at

    John. What meds are you on?

  • John at

    i have used the “fastclix” finger stabber with the same blade for a year now.. i have no problems from it.. i simply wipe my finger with some alchol and poke it.. no pain..instant blood drop… ill probably switch to a new blade this week and use it for another year…
    i poke my middle finger..on the side of the finger, just forward of the joint, but before the nail… wonderful spot to jab..
    so dont waste money on using new blades every few days or week or whatever.. its absurd !!!
    I use relion meters and strips, but im going to that new one ..wavesense.. Mendosa says its got excellent technology and accuracy… and he knows what hes talking about… ive been a type 2 diabetic for over 10 years… and i manage mine in a different way…i use my oral medication like it was insulin.. i of course cut out sodas and bread and starches..candy..ect the day after i found out..10 years ago.. so i eat mostly what i want to eat..and then i take my meds to knock down the glucose levels and keep them low till next meal… instead of using the meds to try and balance it all day… thats a nutthouse rollercoaster that drives most people nutts… my way works… its been 10 years..and I FEEL GREAT..have no medical issues.. and my dr hates my a-1 numbers but when i show her my daily testings…showing that im regulating my bodys glucose levels just like my body would normally do… what can she say…”well i guess it works for you” … lol… she wont admit that im not buying into the “lets trap you into the see you every 90 days and bill the hell out of your insurance for it scam..”… yea.. diabetics need to realize that the medical world is setup to do two things.. bill the hell out of you & and stretch out your treatment as long as possible.. instead of just fixing you up from the start… its a money making scam folks… yes type 2 diabetes can be bad for you…but thats only if you let it be… kick its ass and knock it back down everytime it gets high..and you win… you might say well its better to keep it low all the time.. folks thats NOT what your body normally does.. its normal for your sugar to get high after eating… ALL WE WANT TO DO IS KNOCK IT BACK DOWN RIGHT AFTER IT GETS HIGH.. .. thats what your body normally does too…
    10 years on my system.. and im doing great.. im 63 and feel as good as i did when i was 30…being diabetic for over 10 years now…
    good luck with yours…

  • Loretta at

    David – are there any new updates as to good quality meters and test strips? Looking for something that I can buy generically as my insurance company charges more than I can afford for test strips. Thanks!

    • David Mendosa at

      Nothing new that’s worth considering, Loretta. But Walmart’s ReliOn Blood Glucose Meter and associated test strips are very reasonably priced.

  • Barbara at

    Hi I am trying to find an accurate meter for checking my blood my meter has been way off every time I go into my Dr. office for labs when they check it my meter is always different then theirs and when we check it together with the same droplet of blood mine is always at least 10 points lower then theirs. is it my meter or is it theirs I am new to all of this and I really need a meter that is easy to use and that I don’t have to change the needle so much is there a meter out there that will hold more then 1 needle at a time ? I hate carrying all the extra needles every where I go. it would be so much easier not to have to carry so much around at every place I go thanks

    • David Mendosa at

      Dear Barbara,

      I have heard that many people reuse the same needle one or more times. But they do get dull quickly and that means even more pain. And Accu-Chek offers a couple of different lancing devices and as I remember, at least one of them, perhaps the Sof-Clix or the Multi-Clix (the spelling is approximate because I am traveling now and can’t look it up) includes a cartridge with several needles.

      With metta,

  • Wendy at

    Today I tested three meters with the same drop of blood simutaneously. Relion Ultima ($36 for 100 strips) Relion Confirm ($36 for 100 strips) and TrueResult ($19.95 for 100 strips ONLINE, not in store.)

    Results? 107, 109, 110. I’ve tested them against each other before and had a ten point difference, but didn’t use the same drop of blood! So I’m going to assume they are all close enough. Now I have one to keep upstairs, one downstairs, and one to carry. I track everything using an App called OnTrack, so I don’t worry about upload capabilities.

  • Gretchen at

    Hi David,

    I’ve had T-1Diabetes 36 yrs. I have found the most important issue when choosing most accurate meter is to compare my meter to the labatory at my dr. office. If my meter is more than 20 points off from the labs result when testing a drop of blood, then I’m pretty sure my HbA1C will be inaccurate as well. I discovered this due to consistently high HbA1C test results. While my meter was reading my sugars to mostly be in excellent control, my dr. ‘s lab showed my A1C’s to be regularly high. Once I realized it was truly my meter, I brought it to attention of Diabetes Ed. She replaced my meter with newer meter which seemed to do a better job. Accuracy is vitally important to people with Diabetes!!

  • Benji at

    And here’s another article, from the journal of Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics (Volume 12, Number 3, 2010) that tests and compares 27 meters.

  • Benji at

    Here is a link to an article from the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, dated September, 2012, that should be of interest to most readers. In this article they test and compare 43 meters.

  • Rafa at

    My concern is about accuracy. I have 2 meters biomine gm 100 and onetouch ultra min and really theta give diferente rea dings all the time

  • howard at

    which meter has best accuracy

  • howard at

    i have 3 meters.i tried accuchek aviva always 30 points higher then my freestyle freedom lite and true result.which meter would you reccomend.mens health has aviva at fair accuracy and has lifetime as best