Friday, May 14, 2010

FAIL: One Touch UltraLink, or Why my forehead vein won't stop pulsing

I've been busting my hump since last summer, working toward tighter and tighter control. I started the pump, I'm rockin' the Dexcom, I'm logging religiously, and I'm testing like nobody's business. And with all of the resulting insane, creepy focus - seriously, it's like my BGs are celebs and I'm a hard-core stalker - I've noticed that my One Touch UltraLink sucks.

I know meter accuracy has been a big issue in the DOC, as it should be. 20 percent +/- accuracy is just ridiculous, and not helpful for correct dosing or closely managing the D. But this is getting out of control. In the past month, I've seen more than 100-point discrepancies between blood sugars done mere seconds apart. My own failsafe of "Hmmm, I don't quite feel like I'm only 130" is not nearly as helpful as Dexcom's bellowing for a new BG when he doesn't think my calibration is right, but the fact is that I'm using failsafes for a piece of machinery from a company that declares "Our DoubleSure Technology automatically checks each sample twice to confirm the result."

Bullcrap. Are you telling me that the two BGs I did this morning at 1:55 - 66 and then 107, which is closer to a 40 percent variation - is the awesome result of FOUR separate failing tests? Nice job by you, Lifescan!

As I've been noticing this more and more (thanks, Dex, love you), I became convinced it must be a lemon meter. And so I called Lifescan this morning. Hoo boy.

Had I tried a solution test on my strips? Yes, yes I did. It's not my strips.

Do you touch the strip when you apply blood? No. I use a bead of blood and allow it to be drawn into the strip. Like I'm supposed to.

Does your last result say "mg/dl"? Are you kidding? Do you think I've JUST noticed that all my BGs are being given in Canadian?!?

Were the strips opened more than six months ago? Is the vial cracked or broken? Uh, no? These are basically a week old. Maybe less than that.

We continued on in this "Are you screwing up the BG test procedure?" vein for quite some time, and then we reached the point where I lost it:

Have you experienced symptoms as a result of this problem? Um. Excuse me? Symptoms?
From the readings. Did you have symptoms because of the problems? I had to retest because the BG was incorrect. If I didn't retest, I would have dosed insulin or treated with juice incorrectly and then would have had symptoms.
So you didn't have symptoms. [Getting a little testy now.] I didn't have symptoms because I've been doing this for 16 years and I know that if I don't feel the same as my meter's telling me, I should retest. But I would have had symptoms if I didn't know your machine was wrong.
I understand. But you didn't have symptoms? If you want to twist it that way, no, I avoided having symptoms.
Great! It sounds like the machine is working the way it's supposed to, as there is an error of margin for results. It could be your insulin. [Officially lose it, and bark a laugh out.] That's not how insulin works! I was taking tests within seconds of each other! The error is completely on the machine!
Well, but the machine is working how it's supposed to. If the solution test gives you results within the range on the bottle of strips, the meter is working correctly. So what you're saying is that, because the solution test was right, the machine is working perfectly?
Exactly! It's just that it's working perfectly crappy, because the results are completely useless. Thanks so much for your time.

And then I hung up, spluttering in frustration and anger. I get that she's some lowly tech support person who clearly has no clue about the way this disease works. I. Don't. Care. It's on Lifescan and Minimed and all the companies who make a gajillion dollars off diabetics to get their sloppy acts together, from customer service reps (she asked if I was on a Dexcom pump! DUDE. I use the UltraLink. Ya know, the one your company makes for Medtronic?!) to their products. I couldn't turn in my work at the office and say "If this was a good day, it's only 20 percent off what you wanted. Maybe 40 or 60 percent! Who knows?" How can they?

Fail, Lifescan. Fail.


  1. Ooh, this makes me mad. It's crazy, because before getting Dex I never used to question the readings, which makes me wonder how many times before Dex, when my sugar dropped or soared for no discernible reason after a carefully carb-counted meal, it was because my pre-meal readings were way off. The most important tool we have and it's so unreliable...It's like trying to balance on a tightrope that periodically comes completely untied.

    Re: your call, I've been there before, calling Abbott because my Freestyle strips weren't giving any readings at all, and having them ask a barrage of worthless questions. (She gave me ranges to choose from for my typical number of tests PER WEEK. 1-2, 3-5, or 6 or more. I told her 85-90...)

  2. I am TOTALLY with you Karen (and Elizabeth).

    I feel like ever since Caleb started DexCom, I too see the inaccuracy of the meter that I previously held in high esteem. It makes me think of every dosing and treating decision I made before relying on the results of this meter and how I would be so confounded to see a drastically unexpected results afterward.

    I find myself questioning the meter, the DexCom, the second meter I use because I've questioned the first. I'm known to be a bit obsessive...

    I don't understand the complexity of the technology, but it doesn't seem like we should not be dealing with such inaccuracies. I know things are much better than they used to be, but for the price of the strips and the meters, we really should be able to rely on the first result with a lot greater confidence than I currently do.

  3. Karen, I moved from the OneTouch system as soon as I was able to calibrate with something else. I changed to a WaveSense meter and my A1C dropped by 0.5%, I'm convinced that was due to the better accuracy. My take is that the OneTouch meter is a lot less accurate that my experience with the WaveSense (I had used a Keynote meter, I now use their Jazz model).

    The big downside is that the copays are 3 times the cost of the OneTouch. But I think the improved accuracy is worth it.

    Full disclosure: WaveSense has given me free meters to review in the past. But they don't pay me to say this. I really just love their meters.