Category Archives: Reviews

Review: The Accu-Chek Guide.

Full disclosure: I was sent a new Accu-Chek Guide by Roche so I could try it out. I was not asked to write about it. All opinions, good and bad, are my own. Read on for my thoughts.

I’ll be honest… I’ve been a fan of the Accu-Chek glucose meters going back to the Accu-Chek Nano (which I still have two of and still use), and I’m about to tell you why. In fact, there are three reasons why I’ve liked these meters for years.

1. Accuracy. Since my first Accu-Chek Nano, the readings I’ve received have been something I could rely on. Even after beginning on my Dexcom continuous glucose monitor, I’ve noticed that my results are almost always within 10 mg/dL of my Dexcom readings. Actually, they’ve been nearly always within 5 mg/dL of my Dexcom readings. Hard to get more accurate than that.

2. Consistency. Those accurate readings have remained, no matter how long I’ve used a meter. It’s really great when you have a feeling that your meter will give you result that you can count on, even if it’s high or low.

3. Improvement. Even though my Nano was pretty good four years ago, my Aviva Connect meter, which I received just about a year ago, has been great too. It’s also been something that’s been able to be synced with mySugr and Tidepool accounts, and believe it or not, there aren’t a lot of meters that are doing that, or doing it with Bluetooth technology.

While I can’t say I know a lot about the company, I can say that I’ve been happy with what they’ve produced for a number of years. So… how does this new Accu-Chek Guide measure up? Here are the pros and cons… since I like happy endings, I’ll give you the cons first.

Cons: Actually, the only con I can think of (feel free to add your own in the Comments section, if you have one) is the marketing of the new container for strips. It’s true that when you open a brand new container, the strips are neatly lined up and easy to access, and they don’t spill if you turn the container upside down. Once you’re about halfway through though, it’s easier to knock one or two (or a few) out of place and then they’re much more likely to fall out when you don’t want them to. Still, it’s not like the previous containers were that great. They went for an improvement, and I think it is an improvement, just not as good an improvement as they’re touting.

Pros: See my notes above about accuracy, consistency, and improvement. In addition, probably the biggest thing that makes me a fan of this meter are the strips themselves. The strips have a flat surface, meaning that instead of having to get blood on a narrow part of the strip to get a proper reading, you can actually get the blood on any part of the strip to get a proper reading.

Check this out (video courtesy of me):

When I saw that for the first time, I was hooked.

Now, let’s talk about price. Not the meter price, because you know glucose meter makers will make their meters extremely inexpensive in order to get you to buy the strips, which is where the real money is made. Roche, makers of the Accu-Chek Guide, is doing something different when it comes to pricing on strips. For people who have trouble affording the expense of strips, they’re implementing something called the Simple Pay Savings Program.

Here’s how it works:
You can get a savings card from your doctor, or from Roche. With the savings card, the first vial of strips would cost $19.99. Each additional vial after that, for the same prescription, is an additional $10.00. That means that two vials (100 strips) would cost $29.99, three would cost $39.99, and so on. You can use the savings care to get up to 12 vials, or 600 strips, per prescription.

All in all, I find this meter another compelling offering from a maker I trust. You might have noticed that I’ve almost entirely stopped reviewing products here, mostly because I get more offers to review things than I have time to write, and also because I want to only endorse things I truly believe in. Take this with a grain of salt if you must, but I really like the Guide.

Please remember that other than the meter and 50 strips, I’m not getting anything for this review. If you have a different experience with the Accu-Chek Guide or other meters from Roche, let me know in the comments below. As always, your experience may be different, which is just one of the reasons why we should communicate with one another.

I should also mention that Diabetes Mine did a fabulous and more detailed review of this meter last week. CLICK HERE to check it out.

Finding diabetes devices you can rely on is a tall order sometimes. Personally, I’m glad to have another meter I can count on.

Liquid Splenda? A little goes a long way.

I was contacted recently regarding by a PR person asking if I’d like to try a sample of a new Splenda product: Splenda® Zero™ Liquid Sweetener.
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This is liquid Splenda. In case you didn’t know, I’m a Splenda fan, and when approached, I thought it would be fun to try this out. The idea is that this is Splenda’s formula, just in liquid form.

To set the table (no pun intended), Splenda is sucralose. It’s what goes into Coke Zero, which I really like. Another popular artificial sweetener is aspartame, which is what’s used in Diet Coke. And there’s your difference.

Up to now, we’ve only seen Splenda in granular form in the marketplace, and that’s been okay, because it still works in my morning coffee. How does liquid Splenda perform?

Very well, and very sweet (no pun intended). I mean, a little of this stuff goes a long, long way.

When I received my sample in the mail, I was surprised at how small the bottle was (1.68 fluid ounces), and I reached out to my contact at the PR firm that arranged the review and I asked whether the size I received was the actual retail size, or if it would be bigger. The answer was yes, what I received is the retail size, and it will sell for around $4.99 US.

Tasting it in my coffee, I understand why the bottle is so small. It packs quite the sweet punch. Ordinarily, a semi-heaping teaspoon of granular Splenda is what I’ll use in a typical cup of coffee. Or two packs of the stuff you see in a restaurant. In liquid form, that equates to one squirt of the bottle. More than that, and you really get extra sweetness.

I’m told that the new Splenda will go well in recipes, and I can’t wait to try it in my next batch of cornbread. I know, sweet cornbread. I’m one of those people. It’s the little something extra I go for when I’m enjoying barbeque, especially. Anyway, personal tastes aside, I can see this as something I might have in my cupboard for cooking. Not to replace sugar in things like pies, necessarily, but in things where I just need a little bump of sweetness, without the high glycemic boost that sugar brings. I suspect if you’re used to carrying a purse around every day, you could pack this little thing away and have instant artificial sweetness as close as your handbag.

If I were a thumbs-up or thumbs-down guy, I’d give this a thumbs up. Easy to figure out, still sugar free, the price isn’t crazy high. I hear it should be in your local store soon. Splenda® Zero™ Liquid Sweetener.

I was given a free sample of Splenda® Zero™ Liquid Sweetener to try at home. I not compensated in any way for my take on it, which is absolutely my view and cannot be bought with a little bottle of liquid sweetener. All opinions are my own.
 

Customer service woes? Dexcom’s working on it.

If you’re a User of the most popular CGM on the planet; and if you’ve needed help from Dexcom’s customer support lately; you may have had a less than stellar experience.

I got a chance to speak with Kevin Sayer about that yesterday. Kevin is Chief Executive Officer at Dexcom. He gave me a rundown of how Dexcom is working on solving some of the issues their customers have been facing.

I asked Kevin if the latest customer service initiatives are a function of Dexcom sales growing faster than their customer service function, or if they’re just looking at things with a fresh set of eyes. The answer is yes to both of those. According to Dexcom’s quarterly report released this week, revenues are up 60 percent over this time last year. That’s a lot. He explained it by saying that it’s one thing when Dexcom was growing from 2,500 to 5,000 customers. But Dexcom is still growing fast, and they now have greater than 150,000 customers. That means when you have problems, they become a lot bigger a lot faster than they used to be. So they were forced to take another look at customer service.

As a result, Dexcom has introduced some initiatives designed to reduce the burden on patients who really could use less burden in their lives.

To begin with, they’re rolling out a phone system upgrade. The idea is to reduce wait times and queues. They’ve introduced a new feature where, when phone lines are busy, a customer can opt to have Dexcom call them back without the customer losing their place in the queue. So hopefully, people won’t be on hold forever anymore.

They’re also adding additional customer service reps. Those hires should continue through the month of May.

In addition, Dexcom has made some website upgrades. There are new self service options, and there have been improvements to the online store. Kevin put it this way: “If you’re ordering supplies at 11 o’clock at night, which is what I’d be doing, we want it to work well.”

Finally, there are training and video updates. More descriptive videos, easier access to videos, and the rollout of something brand new for Dexcom: live webinars.

One of the challenges Mr. Sayer relayed to me is the idea that with the Dexcom G5 system, they were no longer answering questions about sensors and receivers. Receivers that Dexcom designed and manufactured. They were now getting inquiries about sensors and phones. Phones that they didn’t design and don’t manufacture. So that slows up customer service a bit, though he feels they’re getting better at it.

At the end of our conversation, we talked about Dexcom at ten years old. How does he feel about shepherding the company into its second decade?

Kevin admitted that there aren’t a lot of examples to go by in the diabetes device world, because so many have gone out of business before reaching the ten year mark. So in a way, Dexcom is blazing its own trail, while still growing its customer base in a big way. And he told me something that I would expect every CEO to say: Dexcom’s patients are the most important part of their business.

Let’s hope that the phone system upgrades, website improvements, and customer service hires help Dexcom come through for their patients for many more years to come.
 

Decision 2014: What’s the Snap really like?

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It’s been two weeks for me on the Snap insulin pump from Asante. I’m wearing the Snap as part of a free trial offered by Asante to all prospective customers. They’ll give you four weeks on the pump, supplies included, along with a voucher for the insulin cartridges you’ll need during your trial. So far, this is the only company I’ve considered that offered a free trial. Anyway, since it’s been a two weeks, I thought it might be time to give a little more insight. Hopefully, this won’t be too long… but since I’ve been able to check this one out more than any of the others, I probably have a little more to say about it. Here goes:

Set changes: When you’re working with the Snap, you’re working with pre-filled 300 unit insulin cartridges. The infusion set is self-priming too. You don’t have to worry about reservoir fill-ups or air bubbles, and that means you wind up wasting a lot less insulin just hooking yourself up again. Definitely a plus. As a result, you’ll probably spend more time on each cartridge. For that, Asante plans for you to use one specific set (with the primer(?) connector) for your changes including insulin. Then they want you to use a different set (without the connector) after 72 hours if your cartridge isn’t running out of life juice. I’m not sure how all that works, because personally, I’m not about to do a set change after three days, then another one 48 hours later. I just kept the first set in for the normal 5 days (5 ½?) it takes me to go through 300 units. And unless I’m dealing with some serious heat, that doesn’t seem to be too much of a problem. I will add, also, that the simple time savings of having a pre-filled cartridge isn’t that big a deal for me, though it is nice.

Humalog Only Accepted Here: Also, let’s not forget that the cartridges come in Humalog only. I’ve been primarily a Novolog user up to now. This is only my experience, so take it with a grain of salt: In my 2-plus weeks on the Snap, I’ve found that Humalog brings me down from spikey highs, but it does so in a very slow, stairstep kind of way compared to Novolog. As a result, I’m learning to avoid things like potato chips and pizza. I am getting better at managing my diabetes with Humalog, so this isn’t necessarily a deal breaker. Though that’s a good thing, it’s crazy to think I’ll never eat those foods again. If I had a choice between the two, I’d stick with Novolog for now.

Striker! You’re coming in too low! (Bonus points if you know which movie that’s from) One of the issues I found (that I don’t remember being covered in training, but I may have missed it) is that when your BG comes in under 70 mg/dL at the moment you’re sitting down for a meal, you can’t use the smart bolus feature. This happened a couple of times during my trial. My pre-meal check came in at 64 or 60, and I couldn’t enter those numbers using the smart bolus feature. To get around this, I wound up entering my BG number for the smart bolus at 70, then dialing down the insulin amount slightly to get to where I think I would be okay, as long as I ate right away. Also: When you do treat before eating, you do have the ability to enter in the carbs you already had (First Carbs), then the carbs you’re about to eat on a separate screen. It will figure out your bolus accordingly.

As a (somewhat) veteran insulin pumper, this feature drives me crazy. But if I was new to pumping, or a CDE or doctor working with someone new to pumping, I might find this a great safety feature. Again, this isn’t a deal breaker or a deal maker for me. It’s just a quirk of using the Snap, and I thought you should know about it.

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I should also mention that the Snap will deliver boluses three different ways: The Now Bolus, Timed Bolus, and Combo Bolus. The Now Bolus is delivered right away. The Timed Bolus delivers your bolus at a specific amount of time (minimum 30 minutes). And the Combo Bolus is pretty much like the Dual Wave bolus on the Medtronic pumps… delivering a set amount now, and a set amount later, predetermined by the user (in 15 minute increments, which I like).

Beep volume: Love, love love the beep volume on this thing. I also love that it’s adjustable. This is such a simple feature. Why can’t other pumps incorporate this idea?

Additional features: The pump has a flashlight feature on it. That’s nice if you need a light and can’t find one anywhere else. Otherwise, turn the light on. If you’re low, your significant other will forgive you. Sorry… I don’t mean to make light of this feature… it shows that the manufacturer has added something that most People With Diabetes will find helpful.

The Snap also has the ability to create more than one basal profile. Again, I think all pumps should have this feature. When I do a long bike ride, I want to be able to change my basal profile for the entire day, not just perform a temp basal then forget about it once it’s complete.

Bolus delivery is pretty fast. Not sure how big a deal that may be for you (it is not a big deal to me), but I thought I would mention it. On the scale of bolus delivery speed, I’d put the Animas Ping at the top, then the Snap, then Medtronic, and t:slim far behind.

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Finding your daily totals and how they translate into 5 day, 10, day, or 14 day averages (14 days is the highest setting) via the Log Book menu item is pretty easy. This is another feature that I don’t remember covering, but it was easy for me to find. Again, I think new pumpers (and their medical teams) may find this helpful.

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Ease of use: The Snap is actually a pretty easy pump to use. Not a lot of clicks to get around to what you need. Menu descriptions make sense. If you like the pre-filled cartridge idea, and the self-priming, that’s an added bonus. I could imagine myself using this pump on a daily basis.

Here’s where I will also tell you that the local pump rep has been fantastic, answering questions and calling me a few days after I began to see if I had any follow-up questions or issues.

In a few days, I’ll be sending the pump back to Asante. Not because I’m not satisfied. Rather, because I want a little time to do some additional research and decide what is best for me from both a patient and an economic perspective.

I hope you’ve found this recap helpful. And if there’s anything else you’d like to know, be sure to ask.
 
 
Disclosure: I’ve been on a standard four week trial of the Asante Snap insulin pump. This is the same trial that is available to all users who are considering starting on insulin pump therapy, or are considering a pump change. I was not given anything by Asante, and I was not asked to write about my experiences. In fact, I did not tell them I’m a writer at all. All opinions, as always, are my own.
 
 
 

Start of the Snap.

Before I begin today, please allow me to say Happy Anniversary to my wife of 21 years. No baseball games tonight Maureen… let’s celebrate!

Part of my day Wednesday was spent getting training and getting started on my four week trial of the Asante Snap insulin pump.

Asante is confident enough in their product to offer a free four week trial of the Snap pump to prospective customers, complete with a voucher to help pay for the Humalog cartridges required for the pump’s use (side note: Asante, you have no idea how much I appreciate the help). In the end, it’s not much different from Medtronic, who, after I would submit insurance paperwork and a prescription, would help me through the process of purchasing the 530g system, then allow me to return it within 30 days if I wasn’t satisfied. The biggest difference between the two (I had to submit the same type of paperwork for my Snap trial) is that for Asante, this is a trial, with the opportunity to go through the purchase process once it’s complete. If I decide not to keep the pump, I already have a postage-paid envelope to drop the pump into to send it back.

After just a couple of days, I can’t speak with much authority on the Snap. So I’ll just give some first impressions.

Maybe I’m a seasoned veteran after 4 ½ years of pumping (I doubt it), but training seemed a pretty easy thing with this pump. My local rep was knowledgeable and able to describe everything about every menu item on this device. Training was simple and straightforward, and the thing that took the longest was probably just inserting the cannula. Part of trying out a new pump also involves trying out a new infusion set. The one I’m using has extra long tubing, which can be a little tough at times. But the extra length really comes in handy when you have to put on a dress shirt for work.

I like that this pump has a volume setting. I cranked that sucker up, and I can actually hear beeps from my pump! I can also turn the volume way down for those times when I’m at a play or at the movies.

Programming a bolus is simple too, though I have one question of anyone using the Snap: After programming a bolus, have you accidentally hit the button to cancel that bolus when returning the pump to your pocket or belt clip? I haven’t done that yet, but it seems like it would be easy to do.

The display is nothing to write home about. Kind of like the Medtronic display (though brighter), I think of it as an MS-DOS screen, if you’re old enough to know what that means.

Taking the display a bit further, I should tell you that Asante is in the process of updating their screens to a color display, which should start happening in late November. Along with that, users will also have the opportunity to choose from a wide variety of pump color combinations. So my question was: If I purchased the pump now, would I be allowed to upgrade in November? The answer is… Yes. Anyone purchasing the Snap pump between now and November 15 will not only be able to upgrade their pump to a new color combo and a color display, they will also be allowed to keep their original version too. For someone new to pumping, this could be an easy way to get a backup pump for nothing extra.

I’m not a big fan of the belt clip. But honestly… Can you say you’re a fan of any of the belt clips from any manufacturer? I can’t think of a way to improve belt clips without invoking the phrase “putting lipstick on a pig”.

When my trial is finished, I’ll try to get a little more in depth with the Snap. In the meantime, if you have any questions, feel free to ask. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll try to reach out to my rep for the solution. Also, if you have experience with the Asante Snap pump, I’d love to hear some of your insights!

Disclosure: I’m beginning a standard four week trial of the Asante Snap insulin pump. This is the same trial that is available to all users who are considering starting on insulin pump therapy, or are considering a pump change. I was not given anything by Asante, and I was not asked to write about my experiences. In fact, I did not tell them I’m a writer at all. All opinions, as always, are my own.
 
 
 

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