Diabetics challenge restriction on glucose meters

MEGAN SMYTH
Last updated 05:00 22/07/2013
diabetic
BRUCE MERCER/ Fairfax NZ
WIDE VARIATION: Diabetic Jack Murray-Griffiths, 8, demonstrates the difference between the readings of his two different glucose meters.

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Waikato diabetics are challenging the Government's decision to limit funding of glucose meters and test strips to one brand they say does not work.

But both Diabetes New Zealand and Pharmaco, which distribute the CareSens meter, say the meters are accurate and have undergone rigorous testing.

Hamilton mother Karlie Griffiths said she was worried about readings from the CareSens meter used by her 8-year-old son, Jack Murray-Griffiths, and has joined an online community to complain.

"It's not acceptable for his health," she said.

Type 1 diabetics inject insulin based on the reading of their glucose meters and if readings were constantly inaccurate, there could be complications such as loss of vision, limbs, kidney failure and diabetic coma.

She said a few points could be the difference between normal blood sugar and high, or normal and low - and that concerned her.

She was worried Jack might go to school and have a "hypo" or low blood sugar level that might not be picked up because the teacher was relying on an inaccurate meter reading.

"It's not acceptable. What if he has a diabetic coma, whose fault is that. Pharmac's or the school's?" she said.

Her other concern was that the CareSens meter did not function well in the cold.

Ms Griffiths has joined more than 2800 people voicing their concerns by signing a petition asking Pharmac to give diabetics more choice.

"They [Pharmac] don't get that type 1 [diabetics] have to test between six to 10 times a day so it has to be accurate," petition organiser Tauranga woman Carrie Hetherington, 24, said.

She said the initial saving of $10 million a year would be negated by the cost of hospital admissions because of inaccurate readings.

Pharmaco business unit manager David Pavey said the CareSens meters' accuracy measured up to international standards falling within plus or minus 15 per cent of a laboratory test.

"So even though an old blood glucose meter and a new CareSens meter are showing different test results, and a laboratory test doesn't match either meter, all the test results, including both glucose meters, are likely to be within the accuracy limits of the meters," he said.

CareSens meters functioned in temperatures between 10 and 20 degrees Celsius, which was comparable to other meters available internationally.

And the meters had been tested in colder climates than New Zealand, Mr Pavey said.

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Pharmac advises diabetics to warm up their meters by placing them next to their skin.

Pharmaco was happy to meet individuals expressing concerns about the CareSens meters.

"They are used successfully around the world, or in the field, by hundreds of thousands of people in countries such as the USA, Canada, Japan, South Korea, the UK and across Europe," he said.

Diabetes New Zealand president Chris Baty said perceived inaccuracies might be the result of the previously used strips reading blood glucose levels too low, rather than CareSens meters reading too high.

"Who is to say what you are comparing the CareSens with is right?" she said.

Pharmac has said the meters were clinically acceptable and met all regulatory standards for New Zealand, the United States and Europe.

Megan Smyth is a Whitireia Polytechnic journalism student.

- Waikato Times

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