Thoughtful piece in Common Ground by my friend Alan Cassels about what he calls the skyrocketing use of blood glucose test strips to look for signs of Type 2 diabetes. Excerpts:
There are concerns that some people are testing their blood sugars as many as six or eight times a day, even when there is no medical rationale for doing so. There is some research emerging that indicates more frequent testing can cause greater levels of depression and anxiety and perhaps lead to worse health outcomes - not better ones.
This controversy came under the spotlight last year when a national group in the US that sets medical guidelines suddenly withdrew a diabetes guideline after research found that aggressive control of blood sugar could harm patients or even kill them.
Other researchers in Canada, who have examined spending patterns related to blood glucose test strips, have concluded that about half the patients using these test strips are considered at low risk for hypoglycemia and are probably using these strips unnecessarily. These researchers have come to similar conclusions as my own: that excessive testing of blood glucose in type-2 diabetics is costly; much of it is unnecessary and it's probably harmful.
This might not matter if we weren't in economic trouble everywhere you look, but the costs of irrational blood testing are staggering. With each test strip costing about one dollar, and with thousands of type-2 diabetics in BC, possibly testing themselves several times a day, the British Columbia taxpayer is probably wasting in the neighbourhood of $50,000 a day on useless and likely harmful blood test strips. That amounts to about $18 million per year. In British Columbia, the revenue paid out for blood test strips puts them in the top 20 most costly items on the formulary.