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From Cleveland, Ohio, USA:

Why are test strips so expensive? You can always find meters free or nearly so, but test strips are outrageously high-priced. The test paper looks like a coffee filter. Is it something incredibly fancy?


Yes, the test paper is "something incredibly fancy" as you said. The miracle of reagent strips is that they are the vital part of the testing procedure. In the 1980s, there were very few blood glucose meters available. Folks used mainly Chemstrips to test their blood sugar levels. The closest "guess" of a blood sugar level came from checking the color of the strip after placing a blood droplet on it. Next you had to wait, then wipe the strip and compare the color with a color palette. After all that, you only got a near guess of what your blood sugar might be!

As meters became more advanced, available, and less costly, more people began to count on the closer reliability of their readings. Pharmaceutical companies began making slicker, smaller, and faster meters. However, the money they make actually comes from the strips: without which the meters are useless. I agree they are far too costly over time.

Do you belong to the ADA? Do you attend any local meetings? Often bottles of strips are given away as doorprizes at their meetings. In my center, we got extra bottles of strips to give to people who simply could not afford them. Less frequent testing makes strips go a bit farther; but that is a decision to be made between you and your physician.

I hope that the future holds a more affordable testing strip for all the meters out there. Until then, these suggestions may help. If not, get active and start writing to the pharmaceutical companies!


Additional Comments From LifeScan:

At LifeScan, we realize that diabetes, like any chronic illness, can be expensive. And that monitoring blood glucose levels to maintain good control can be costly. We completely understand and empathize with the concern regarding the cost of blood glucose monitoring, particularly the cost of the test strips. Please know that LifeScan test strips are competitively priced. Prices of all diabetes supplies vary by region and retailer. LifeScan sells directly to Authorized LifeScan Distributors and Wholesale/Chain Drugstores who set the price of test strips depending upon services which the retailers offer to the public, such as intensive education, insurance billing, or home deliveries. We always recommend shopping around in order to obtain the best price for all diabetes supplies.

Unfortunately, we cannot lower the price of test strips if we are going to meet the rising cost of manufacturing and distribution, continue our research and development efforts to provide innovative new products that benefit people with diabetes, and maintain the high level of customer service we provide to all of our customers. Currently we offer programs such as the LifeScan Tele-Library (information regarding diabetes and diabetes care accessible through a toll free number: 1-800-847-7226), The Monitor (LifeScan's complimentary newsletter), and the LifeScan Web site. Also reflected in the cost of the test strips are the rigorous quality control procedures that ensure the highest degree of accuracy when used with a LifeScan meter. LifeScan develops and tests its meters, test strips and control solutions together as an integrated system, knowing that any change in one may impact the performance of the other under certain conditions. Additionally, LifeScan gives generously to the diabetes community through summer camp scholarships, donations to the American Diabetes Association, Juvenile Diabetes Foundation and other research and education efforts.

We realize that this information won't lower the price of the test strips, but we hope it helps customers understand the research, distribution, manufacturing and support costs that go in to the price of test strips. Again, we also think it's important to shop around for the best diabetes supply prices because retail prices vary depending on the services offered to the public. And we encourage customers to contact their insurance companies and legislators to increase the reimbursement level for diabetes supplies.

[children with DIABETES contacted LifeScan to seek their official response to the often-raised question of the perceived high price of test strips. LifeScan is a sponsor of the children with DIABETES web site.]

Original posting 7 Mar 1998
Additional comment added 15 Mar 1998
Posted to Blood Tests and Insulin Injections


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Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:08:56
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