Tag Archives: product review

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.

Level Foods Review and GIVEAWAY!!!

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UPDATE: Our giveaway winner (according to random.org) is latanya!

Latanya, you have 24 hours to send me your mailing address (e-mail me using the E-Mail Stephen link on the left of this page). Once I get it, I’ll send out your Level Life Box ‘O Goodness. If you don’t get back to me by 12:00 noon EDT on Sunday, I’ll go to the next person on our list. Thanks!
 
 
Life is full of firsts. At least I like to think so. I think there are firsts that happen for us all through our lives. Today is one of those for me. It’s our first giveaway!

I’m going to try to do this justice today, but I know you’re just dying to get to the bottom of this post and find out how you can win some Level Life goodies for yourself. If that’s the case, skip to the end and then come back up here and check out my review of Level Foods’ snack bars and protein shakes.

I’m not always the best person to ask to review things, because for me, it goes like this: If I like a product/book/website, I’ll talk about it. If I don’t, you (usually) won’t hear anything from me. Why? Because it’s hard to put yourself out there, whether you’re posting a video online, writing a book, or developing products that are both tasty and helpful for People With Diabetes. So if I have criticism at all, I generally keep it to myself, or keep it just between myself and the person it’s directed at. On the other hand, if I like something, I want the whole world to know.

Ethan Lewis is a Type 1 and founder of Level Foods. In the past few years, his efforts are coming on strong in development and release of several products that are high in protein and low in carbs, designed to help you keep your BGs level as much as possible (get it? Keep the BGs Level? Level Life? Ahem… moving on…).

Ethan was kind enough to send some samples my way recently, and I had a chance to try out snack bars and shakes carrying the Level Foods brand. For me, they have been exactly as advertised. I tried the Caramel Chocolatey Peanut bar and the Chocolatey Crisp bar, (carb counts: 17g and 18g each, respectively), and both the Vanilla and Chocolate shakes (all Level Life shakes are 10g each). The main takeaway for me was the absolute remarkable feeling of being full after enjoying each of these items. In fact, I had to start drinking only half a shake at a time because I would feel too full if I drank the whole thing at once.

They’ve been good pre- and post-workout snacks for me… making me feel full, but giving me enough fuel to feed my muscles, whatever muscles I have left. My favorite? The Caramel Chocolatey Peanut bar. That seemed to be the big hit overall at our household. They went pretty fast.

So now I have to go get more. The good news is I can get more online at levelfoods.com, and I can go to Target if I don’t want to wait for delivery (it’s okay… I pay cash for nearly everything anyway). Ethan even has a $4.00 USD off at Target coupon offer on the website.

Now, let’s get down to the giveaway. I have what you see in the photo above: A four-pack of both the Strawberry Crème and Rich Caramel shakes, plus a box each of Chocolate Peanut Crunch and Double Chocolatey Chip snack bars. Also included are Strawberry Banana and Mandarin Orange (my favorite) glucose gels (15g of carbs each).

To be eligible to win, just leave a comment below telling me you’d like to win. I’ll accept entries through Friday at midnight Eastern Daylight Time. Then I’ll put everyone’s name in one of those random-generator things and pick a winner, so look for the name in an update on this post Saturday morning. Good Luck!

Disclosure, just in case you didn’t catch it above: I was sent samples of Level Foods products to try. I was not asked to write about them, and I was not paid anything to write about them. I have no working relationship with Level Foods at this time. But I’m happy to give some of my goodies away!
 
 
 

Medtronic and Dexcom in a good light.

Tuesday’s post covered a couple of potential issues with devices made by Medtronic and Dexcom. And I seem to remember a similar post that included Medtronic a couple of months ago.

Taken just as they are, these posts might give you the impression that I have a problem with Med-T and Dex. Trust me… I do not have an axe to grind. I really do try to be fair and balanced. Not fair and balanced like a certain news organization here in the States that eggs on congress to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the house voted against it 37 times already), then champions House Speaker John Boehner when he states that “…creating a better environment for jobs has been and will remain our top focus”. But I digress.

What I’d like to do today is talk about the things that I really like about the Medtronic pump I have, and the Dexcom continuous glucose monitor (CGM) I’m using as part of a clinical trial. M’kay?
 
 
First, Medtronic.

The single best thing I can say about my MiniMed Paradigm® Revel™ insulin pump is that it’s reliable. It has never once failed me. Oh, I’ve gotten a motor error or two now and then, but I was always able to overcome that without too much difficulty. By “without too much difficulty”, I mean within five minutes.

I’ve also dropped my pump several times over the last three and a half years. I’ve scratched it. I’ve let it get dirtier than a medical device should ever be, and it still keeps going. It’s been on bike rides and runs and through airport security more than a few times. No problems here… still pumping.

And when it comes right down to it, what I want most out of a medical device designed to help keep me alive is reliability. My pump has that in spades.
 
 
Now, Dexcom.

There’s a lot to like about the Dexcom G4™ continuous glucose monitor. To begin with, the insertion process is simple, smooth, and often completely painless. For the study I’m participating in, I’m required to wear the sensor on my belly only, so I haven’t had a chance to try it anywhere else. But I really like the fact that I can get the sensor in easily, and that once it’s in I almost never feel it.

Since it’s not integrated with my pump, the Dexcom CGM has its own display device. Much has been written about how 21st century and sexy this little thing is. I mean, it is kinda nice, and it looks a lot like other electronic devices we all carry around every day. But I really dig two things about it. One, it holds a charge for a loooong time (and recharges quickly). And two, the range on the device is pretty good. I’ve gotten into the habit of reminding myself to put it in my pocket every time I stand up now, so I don’t leave it on a table or on my desk at work. But if I’m in a meeting in a big conference room, I can leave it on the conference table and get up to walk around the room without worrying about whether I’ll be out of range. At home, I can sit it on the front steps while I mow the front lawn (I have a small yard, but it’s big enough to be out of range for other CGMs).

Finally, I like the Dexcom Studio™ software used to track all of the data from the CGM. Lots of user-friendly, understandable graphs, charts, and other features that help me understand my glucose trends better. I could go into detail, but if you’re really interested in finding out more about it, you should probably check out the information on the Dexcom website.

I haven’t tried a lot of continuous glucose monitors (just Dexcom and Medtronic), but my impression of the Dexcom G4™ is that it’s the Cadillac of CGMs right now. If you disagree, feel free to let me know why by leaving a comment.
 
 
So you see, it’s not all bad. If you think about where we were twenty years ago, there really has been a lot of hard work done and progress made on insulin pumps and CGMs. I hope that in future years, Medtronic and Dexcom will be able to keep the best features of their current products, and improve and enhance the worst. Our lives, and the quality of our lives, depend on it.
 
 
 

A new favorite.

I have a new favorite juice:

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I was treating a low last night and opened this bottle of Ocean Spray® 100% Juice Cranberry-Pomegranate juice. It‘s been made by the Ocean Spray® people since 2009. And it’s delicious.

Don’t let the label fool you though… this “Cranberry-Pomegranate Juice” is actually a mixture of grape, apple, and plum juice from concentrates, plus cranberry and then pomegranate juice from concentrates. In that order. At least here in the USA, that means there’s more grape, apple, and plum juice in there than cranberry or pomegranate. But it still has the cranberry-pomegranate taste, and for me, it’s still all juice (with a little fumaric acid and ascorbic acid—vitamin C—in there). It’s still tasty, and that’s what matters in these moments.

It’s got a higher carbohydrate count than the average orange juice from concentrate. OJ generally has about 29 grams per 8 ounces. This stuff has 34 grams per 8 ounces. So if you can stand to have just about 7 ounces instead of 8, you’ll get right around 30 grams of carbs.

Whatever. I like it. Ocean Spray® makes a point on the FAQ page of their website that “Ocean Spray® Light Juice Drinks are appropriate for people with diabetes”. Well, maybe, but not if you’re treating a low. When I need to get my BG up in a hurry, this stuff is my new favorite juice.

I’m Stephen, and I approved this message. This just means that I like the product, not that anyone is giving me anything for saying I like it.
 
 
 

The Accu Chek Nano.

This isn’t quite a product review. The reason why is at the bottom of this post. But I wanted to touch on something I think about every time I change meters or almost anything else.

At my last visit with my endocrinologist, I mentioned that my meter is kind of old and asked if she could recommend a new one. Fortunately, my insurance doesn’t severely limit my choices meter-wise (or strip-wise, which is what they’re really doing). Well, it turned out she had an extra Accu-Chek Nano meter she could let me have, and I gladly accepted.

Obviously, accuracy is of utmost importance in any glucose meter. And the Nano is promoted as 23% more accurate. Actually, that’s not exactly what they’re saying. The meter isn’t supposed to be more accurate, the strips are. In fact, Roche (maker of the Nano) states that their SmartView test strips have been tested against a 23% tighter specification. That’s great, but I’m not sure how stringent the 23 percent lesser specification was. And in the long run, it doesn’t matter. As long as it’s consistently in the ballpark.

Here’s what I mean: my first reading of the Nano side-by-side with my old Contour meter was an exact match.

And then I proceeded to test side by side with the Contour over the course of about 3 1/2 weeks. While the readings were close most of the time, the photo above was the only match between the two. But how do I really know which one was more accurate? I kept the Contour for a lot longer than I should have because I was happy with its consistency. And that’s what I want from a new meter.

Honestly, three months after you start using a meter, you’re probably not thinking about accuracy anymore. At that point, what’s on the meter is just the new normal, whatever it says. Now, I know that we don’t want big inaccuracies in our meters. But as long as it’s consistently close to where my BG is at, that’s what matters for me.

I have to admit to really liking the back light feature on this meter. Makes it easy to read wherever you are. Also, I like that the reading stays on the screen for an extra second or so after I pull out the test strip. I can’t tell you how many times, out of habit, I’ve pulled a strip from a meter and proceeded to forget the reading almost immediately. And I’ve liked how small it is… fit in my pocket pretty easily.

That’s about as much as I have on the Accu-Check Nano right now. Unfortunately, even though it fit into my pocket easily, it also slipped out easily while on the train home about a week ago. Never even knew I lost it until the train pulled away at my stop. So I’ve gotta go back to the old standby while I troll Amazon and eBay for a deal on a new one.

Here’s hoping your new normal doesn’t involve getting two new meters in six weeks.
 
 
 

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