Insulin tests 'like Russian roulette'

Last updated 05:00 05/04/2014

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Parents of teenagers with type 1 diabetes are worried blood glucose meters are giving inaccurate readings that could put their lives in danger.

In March 2013 Pharmac changed to CareSens funded blood glucose meters, which for most users meant a change of meter.

There was an outcry last year when the meters first went into use, but Diabetes New Zealand said this had now stopped.

However, New Plymouth mother Helen Lockley said many people were unhappy with the meters, including her teenage son.

"You get inconsistent and inaccurate readings. It's like playing Russian roulette every time you inject insulin based on a CareSens meter reading."

Her son refuses to use the new meter because he didn't trust it, she said.

She had stocked up and Joel was still using his old meter for the time being, she said.

"It's a real worry. It's a horrible condition to live with anyway. He doesn't need the extra concern."

Joel's doctor applied to Pharmac for funding for strips for his old meter, but was refused, Lockley said.

Pharmac said Joel's concerns about safety were "concerns that we understand are often experienced during adolescence."

Another Taranaki mother, who didn't want to be named, said her teenage daughter had had a couple of close calls with the meter.

On one occasion the daughter wasn't feeling "right" and tested her blood. She hit 19, the mother said.

"She said, I'm not 19, I feel low."

If the teenager had believed the 19 reading, she would have taken about eight units of insulin and ended up in a coma.

"It's putting her life in danger. Every now and then she has a reading that is so different than what she feels. They can feel when their blood sugars are low. They get a bit shaky, feel nauseous. If their blood level says they're 11 and they are feeling a bit shaky they know that reading is not right.

"I have teenage kids who are starting to drink. It's bad enough having a child drinking and doing insulin, but if they are going to get a wrong reading."

Medsafe had received an average of five complaints a month since last October, but had no evidence of any technical issues with the meters.

National president Diabetes New Zealand Chris Baty said the meters have been analysed, tested and reviewed. "We are interested in people's concerns and our role is to ensure they are being heard."

However, she said there was no evidence to support the concerns and there had been multiple reviews.

Pharmac director of operations Sarah Fitt said all blood glucose testing meters must meet international standards of accuracy. CareSens meters have been tested for accuracy in New Zealand, and met the standards.

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Ongoing access to an alternative meter is a matter for discussion between the patient and their health professional, she said.

"The patient's individual circumstances are taken into account when an application is made to Pharmac [to fund an alternative meter] so there may be different responses for different patients."

- Taranaki Daily News

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