'I don't want anyone to die' - diabetes worker

NEW METERS: Korean-made CareSens meters test blood-glucose levels.
NEW METERS: Korean-made CareSens meters test blood-glucose levels.

Pharmac needs to take the concerns of diabetics seriously, with new blood-glucose testing equipment routinely failing or giving inaccurate results, a Christchurch diabetes worker says.

Government drug-buying agency Pharmac switched to a sole provider for diabetes equipment in March to save $10 million, affecting about 150,000 diabetics across the country who regularly test their own blood glucose.

Diabetes Christchurch community liaison officer Chris Murray said the centre had heard concerns about the new Korean-made CareSens meters from more than 100 people over the last few months.

Many were worried it gave inaccurate readings and some found it stopped working in cold weather or if it was held incorrectly.

''As I understand it, there have been a few medication issues. We know there have been quite a few people who have filled in reports [to medical regulatory body Medsafe].''

One man had been planning to go for a drive after his CareSens meter told him he was safe to do so, but his old meter told him he was ''hypo'' - meaning his low blood sugar level was dangerously low.

Another found the new meter stopped working when he tried to insert a testing strip, leaving him without any way of checking his blood sugar level.

Murray said diabetics wanted Pharmac to take their concerns seriously.

''It's not about getting used to it. I don't want anyone to die on my watch.''

Christchurch-based diabetes researcher Dr Helen Lunt said a recent study by University of Otago student Harmony Thompson found the new meters did show a slightly higher result than other meters.

Lunt, who supervised the project, said Thompson recruited more than 100 Christchurch diabetics for her project and found that despite the small variation in results, it was not expected to lead to the self-medication errors people feared.

However, the study highlighted the fact people often got varied results from all types of diabetes meters, some by up to 20 per cent between tests, she said.

'We think people should know about it, but we don't think it's causing major dangerous errors in self-management. The variation is something people need to get used to and understand with whatever meter they choose."

Diabetics were still able to use other testing meters, but at their own cost.

''Most people can't afford to self-fund, [but] if they're not feeling confident about switching over they could run a series of parallel tests, using the old meter and checking against the new one to get used to how it works,'' Lunt said.

The Press