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Evaluating Meters

By David Mendosa

Last Update: November 1, 2005

We have so many blood glucose meters to choose from that it’s hard to know which one to use. I count 43 home meters for sale in the U.S. now.

The Ultra and FreeStyle Flash are both highly accurate

With so many choices, where can you find comparative evaluations? The most professional group that evaluates meters, DirecNet, is not as well known as it deserves to be.

DirecNet is the Diabetes Research in Children Network, consisting of five clinical centers and one data coordinating center. The clinical centers are pediatric departments at Yale and Stanford universities and the University of Iowa, the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes in Denver, and the Nemours Children’s Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. The data coordinating center is the Jaeb Center for Health Research in Tampa, Florida, where is Roy Beck, M.D., is the executive director.

DirecNet’s mission is to do studies that advance the therapy of children with type 1 diabetes, William V. Tamborlane, M.D., told me. He is a professor of pediatric endocrinology at Yale School of Medicine. He says that DirecNet has concentrated most of its research on continuous sensors because they are such an important breakthrough in diabetes management.

I wondered whether this research on children can be applied to adults with diabetes. “You might expect some difference from adults, but there really wasn’t,” Dr. Tamborlane replied.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine’s MEDLINE database of journal articles in life sciences includes 13 articles by the DirecNet team. Of these 11 are about Medtronic Diabetes’s CGMS and the GlucoWatch, and three make direct comparisons between them.

Why concentrate on just those two sensors? Because those were the only two continuous monitors until the recent introduction of Medtronic Diabetes’s Guardian RT System.

DirecNet has also begun to check out regular meters. Earlier, it reported that LifeScan’s One Touch Ultra was accurate at both low and high blood glucose levels. Now, in an article that Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics just published in October 2005, DirecNet compared the accuracy of the One Touch Ultra with that of Abbott’s FreeStyle Flash.

Their conclusion: Both highly accurate over a broad range of glucose levels.

DirecNet evaluates accuracy, but not precision. “We do not have formal data on precision,” Dr. Beck told me. “But we have been impressed with their consistency.”

The DirecNet team is just starting to study the Guardian RT and the forthcoming Abbott Navigator. Stay tuned.

Sidebar: Consumer Reports
Besides DirecNet, the other group that evaluates blood glucose meters is Consumer Reports, which tests a few of them from time to time. Most recently in its August 2005 issue its lab tested 13 meters for “consistency” — technically called precision — and for accuracy. This article says that consistency is more important than accuracy, a point I make in my November column here about precision.

Consumer Reports rated no meters as excellent for consistency, but eight meters were very good: LifeScan’s OneTouch UltraSmart and OneTouch Ultra, Accu-Chek’s Complete and Compact, Abbott’s FreeStyle and FreeStyle Flash, Bayer’s Ascensia Contour, and Becton Dickinson’s Logic. It rated six of these as excellent for accuracy — all except the Compact and the Contour — which it rated very good. 

This article originally appeared in Diabetes Health, November 2005..

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