Diabetes Testing

Blood Glucose Meters from Roche Rank Highest in Survey

Of the four companies that dominate the blood glucose meter business in the United States, we are happiest with Roche Diagnostics, according to a new scientific survey. Number two was Abbott Laboratories, third was Bayer, and pulling up last was LifeScan.

meter study

But two of the particular meters that LifeScan makes rank among the three favorite meters. Those few people in the survey who use the OneTouch UltraLink or the OneTouch Vario liked it a lot as did the small sample size of people who rated Bayer’s Contour Next Link.

“The difference in customer satisfaction between Roche and LifeScan was statistically significant,” Rick Johnson, director of the healthcare practice at J.D. Power, told me in a phone interview yesterday. The other differences among product lines and particular meters could be by chance.

The survey is based on responses this summer from 2,026 adults or parents of children with type 1 or type 2 diabetes who use a meter made by one of the four largest manufacturers. The “big four” sell three-fourths of the blood glucose meters in the U.S.

The Big Four Dominate Formularies

Meters from one or two these four companies are the only ones available in the formularies of essentially all health insurance companies. “Number 5 is so far down the line,” Mr. Johnson told me, that it doesn’t count.

Roche Diagnostics, which is division of the Swiss healthcare company F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG, makes Accu-Chek meters, including the Aviva Plus that I use. Roche moved up to first position from fourth in last year’s J.D. Power survey. Worldwide, Roche is the market leader in blood glucose meters.

In the U.S., however, LifeScan has the biggest market share. That may be changing as its customer satisfaction overall dropped from second to last place among the big four. LifeScan is a member of the Johnson & Johnson “family of companies.”

Satisfaction for Bayer Drops

Customer satisfaction with meters from Bayer dropped from first place last year. I wonder if its poor performance is related to Bayer’s decision to stop working with those of us who have diabetes, and Mr. Johnson said he didn’t know they were connected.

Bayer AG, a German company, announced in June that it is selling its blood glucose meter and test strip business to Panasonic Healthcare, which the U.S. private equity firm KKR controls. Last year Bayer sold its A1CNow testing business to PTS Diagnostics.

The measures of customer satisfaction were six weighted factors:

Performance, 26 percent; ease of use, 24 percent; design, 20 percent; features, 19 percent; cost of test strips, 6 percent; and training; five percent.

I asked Mr. Johnson how he decided the weighing of these factors. “We didn’t,” he replied. “The data decided it.” It depended on how many people that they surveyed emphasized one factor or another.

Accuracy Doesn’t Count

Noting that accuracy isn’t one of these factors, I asked Mr. Johnson why not. The lack of meter accuracy has been one of my big concerns for the last two decades.

“I don’t know if our respondents would know to rate that unless they had readings that were wildly out of range,” he replied. “Only a lab with sophisticated machinery could answer that.”

That is the next study of blood glucose meters that we need the most.

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

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14 Comments

  • Reply Tom December 3, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    Allen, I would recommend the ReliOn Prime meter (made by Arkray) from Wal-Mart. It is very low cost (the strips, $9/50) and accurate (in my testing–see above).

  • Reply Debra Sokol-McKay December 1, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    Anything about meters with speech? I realize some are fully speech capable while others just announce the result and time but little else. the latter meters I consider more of a gimmick not a meter designed for those with vision loss nor totally blind.

    Debbie

  • Reply Allen December 1, 2015 at 11:15 am

    Oh yea price is an issue as I do not get reimbursement from the VA for more that 50 per year. Isn’t that ridiculous?

  • Reply Allen December 1, 2015 at 11:13 am

    I have to pretty much totally discount evaluations of glucose meters based on what folks “like”. I would like a meter that is accurate. I can take some discomfort.

  • Reply Bill Sheehan December 1, 2015 at 9:43 am

    And thank you for the correction: I meant the lancing device, not the pin itself.

  • Reply Bill Sheehan December 1, 2015 at 9:42 am

    I did read your excellent review of the Genteel, David, but it seemed a bit pricey. I only check post-prandial once in a while – they’re invariably good – so as long as my daily fasting test doesn’t cause my finger to hurt for hours afterward, I’m good.

    Perhaps I’ll put the Genteel on Santa’s list…

  • Reply Bill Sheehan December 1, 2015 at 5:56 am

    With respect, I wonder how much people’s satisfaction was based not on the meter, but on the lancet? I recently bought a bluetooth-enabled meter (iHealth) that reports to my smart phone (I’m a geek, sue me.) It seems to run a little hotter than my old Abbot Freestyle Lite, but over the long haul, I can’t complain. What I hated about it was the lancet: poorly designed and rather painful. I switched out to the old Freestyle lancet, and all is now well again.

    • Reply David Mendosa December 1, 2015 at 9:29 am

      Good point, Bill. The lancing device is, I think, even more important than the lancet. Have you looked into the Genteel?

  • Reply Tom November 30, 2015 at 5:39 pm

    To me accuracy is all. There are some studies, but no one has centralized and summarized them, which is too bad (David?). I consulted them, together with other criteria, like cost of strips, and tested a number of meters against simultaneous HemoCue Glucose 201 readings, using my own blood, so limited to my range of readings, for 50-100 or more readings per meter tested. I chose my latest meter, based on my test results. There were a few meters which were acceptable. Abbott was not–I used an Abbott meter for years, but they declined in accuracy after switching to uncoded strips. I didn’t test any Lifescan ones, as those are notoriously low readers–the ADA’s eAG is biased low due to use of those meters, which were donated to that study, the higher the A1c, the lower the estimate relative to the old (more reliable ) DCCT estimate. I also didn’t test Aviva (Roche). Bayer NEXT (only, not previous), ReliOn Prime (Arkray, only the Prime was tested), Bionime GM100 & GM550 were all okay. Bayer software is garbage, so I now have to input my readings by hand to Abbott’s vastly superior CoPilot program. Oh well. My “study” is obviously not scientific, for many reasons, but I am confident of the results, which cost me a pretty penny. Accuracy is all to me. Would love to see some unbiased peer reviewed studies, not intended to showcase any particular company’s new meter, rather which cast a wide net, and look at accuracy, not comparing to say the FDA criteria (garbage). Unfortunately Consumer Reports’ tests are also poorly thought out, and the details secret between their editors and the industry. Why have a criteria of repeatability and another of “accuracy?” Plus, why give any significant weight to bells and whistles? UGH.

    • Reply David Mendosa November 30, 2015 at 8:43 pm

      i agree, Tom. Particularly what you write about Consumer Reports’ tests.

  • Reply Lee November 21, 2015 at 9:12 am

    FWIW I shifted from Abbot Freestyle to Bayer Contour Next several months ago when I got serious about testing. The Bayer strips are available from the online giant, named after a big river, for $25 per 100 vs Freestyle at $65 per 100.

    The Freestyle test units are smaller and come with a nicer case, but the test strip price swamps out the form factor issues for me.

    For some reason the price in stores are about the same for both brands

    Lee in Florida
    doing the low carb thing

  • Reply ana November 15, 2015 at 9:22 am

    If customers are not ranking on accuracy, is there any data comparing accuracy of any of these meters? I realize govt allows up to 20% +/1 variance. That is huge for someone on insulin, IMHO.

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