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Are you testing your blood sugar too much? You might be, study says

Do you test your blood sugar often? You might be pricking your finger too much, according to a new report. 

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Researchers from the University of Michigan recently conducted a study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, to explore the usage of test-strip medications, which check blood sugar at home. 

The team wanted to investigate this topic after noticing patients coming to the clinic with “notebooks filled with multiple daily blood sugar levels that they’d carefully kept for years,” the authors wrote in a statement. But for some, such logs “do not have any clinical value,” they noted. 

In fact, several organizations, including the Endocrine Society and Society of General Internal Medicine, have issued guidelines for test-strip medications. Many believe adults with stable Type 2 diabetes, who are on medications that don't cause hypoglycemia or low blood sugar, do not need to regularly test their glucose levels. Previous research has deemed daily tracking unnecessary. 

For their assessment, they examined the insurance data of 370,740 people with Type 2 diabetes, who were not taking insulin and who were filling prescriptions for test strips three or more times a year. They also observed those who didn’t fill any. 

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After analyzing the results, they found 23 percent of the subjects had at least three insurance claims for test strips. Nearly 60 percent of those folks were potentially using them inappropriately, the scientists said.

Of those who had at least three insurance claims for test strips, about 20 percent of them didn’t fill any prescriptions for diabetes medications. And 43 percent filled prescriptions only for medicines that didn’t cause hypoglycemia. 

“After the patient has found the dose of these medications needed to keep their sugar levels stable, they don’t need to do daily testing,” the team wrote in a statement. “But even though these two groups of patients didn’t need to be testing daily, they were using an average of two test strips a day.”

The analysts also considered the price of these medications. While test strips cost about $18 in copays, they said it’s an unnecessary purchase for those who don’t need to track their glucose levels daily. 

“Health care costs and access to care are an important issue for many Americans,” the team said. “The savings that result from reducing the use of unnecessary care – such as needless home blood sugar testing - can create ‘headroom’ to spend more on those clinical services that we need to buy more often.”

Want to learn more about the findings? Take a look at the full assessment here.

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