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Stripping Down the Cost of Testing

By David Mendosa

Last Update: October 14, 2005

A few years ago the International Diabetes Center in Minneapolis compared meter systems. What I remember most about the comparison was the cost of blood glucose test strips. The prices were so close that someone who suspected the meter manufacturers of collusion could be forgiven for being so cynical.

Sometimes less is more

Strip prices for the leading brands are still pretty close. Every time you test with the biggest selling meters your cost will be about 80 cents. And that's assuming you don't waste a strip or two.

Of course, health insurance generally covers 80 to 100 percent of the cost. But 15 percent of Americans had no health insurance in 2002, according to a recent Census Bureau report.

If you do have health insurance and are lucky enough not to live in Alabama, Idaho, North Dakota, or Ohio, your state has some type of law requiring health insurance coverage to include treatment for diabetes. That usually covers just one or two brands of test strips. That means, of course, that your favorite system may not be included.

This gives many of us a powerful reason to switch to a lower cost blood glucose testing system. The meter itself is usually deeply discounted, if not free. Lancets and control solution are insignificant costs. The main cost comes from buying the strips, particularly if you test as often as medical authorities would like you to.

What Are Your Options?
Of the 14 brands of blood glucose meters now on the market, some of the smaller ones offer the least expensive testing. The strips for two of these meters are, in fact, less than half the cost of the main brands.

1. The current price leader is US Diagnostics' EasyGluco. A box of 50 strips lists for $17.95 or 36 cents each.

2. QuestStar Medical expects that its Focus meter will be available by presstime. This company will offer one or two boxes of 50 strips for $19.95 or three or more boxes of 50 strips for $18.95 per box. That's as low as 38 cents each.

3. Until recently the price winner was the ReliOn system marketed by Wal-Mart and Sam's Clubs. You can buy 50 strips for $21.94 or 100 for $42.48. That's as low as 42 cents each.

4. The newest Home Diagnostics meter, the TrueTrack, is available through mail-order suppliers and major pharmacies, including CVS, Eckerd, and Walgreens. Strips for this meter retail for as low as $44.99 for 100, or 45 cents each.

Sometimes Less is More
To be sure, the specs for most of these meters can't compare with the best offerings of the biggest companies. But if you can live with a test time of 9 to about 30 seconds and a sample size of 3 to 7 microliters, any of the first three meters is worth your consideration. The TrueTrack has specs that rival those of the market leaders — a 10 second test time and a 1 microliter sample size.

Please see my Meters page at for more information and links to manufacturers' websites.  

This article originally appeared in Diabetes Health, June 2004, p. 82

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