A Meter That Talks Sense

If you can read Diabetes Health, you don’t need a SensoCard Plus meter. But there’s a good chance that a friend or someone in your family does.

The SensoCard Plus helps people who are visually impaired by saying out loud their blood glucose results.

More than three million Americans who have diabetes are visually impaired, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than one-third of us have diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to blindness unless treated.

The SensoCard Plus is coming to America, but it’s not here yet. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration started its review of the device in September, according to Bill Cunningham of Cunningham Diagnostics in Sunderland, England.

However, the actual manufacturer of the meter is a company called 77 Elektronika, of Budapest, Hungary. The company is not as well known as it should be, because it sells most of its meters internationally through distributors that put their own brand names on the devices.

“Cunningham Diagnostics is our distributor for Great Britain and the United States,” says Christian Moldoványi, 77 Elektronika’s international sales manager. This meter is tiny. It is almost exactly the size of a dozen of my credit cards (don’t ask why I have so many), and it weighs about the same, 2.6 ounces.

This little meter has perhaps even more impressive specifications. It requires only a 0.5 microliter drop of blood and returns a result in just five seconds. Only Abbott’s FreeStyle, Becton Dickinson’s Logic and Medtronic MiniMed’s Paradigm Link meters take less blood—and no other meter works faster.

The SensorCard Plus doesn’t just talk. Like regular meters, it has a large screen display that is helpful for the visually impaired or for people who are assisting them. One large button controls the meter. Its memory stores 500 tests that you can download to a PC with the help of an additional device called the LiteLink. Instead of using visual cues, you calibrate the meter’s test strips with a code card.

My main concern about the SensoCard Plus was the documentation. The owner’s manual is poorly written (or poorly translated from the Hungarian). Of course, the meter also comes with an audio version of the manual, but it, too, is inadequate. “The tape needs to be ‘Americanized,’ and I am in the process of doing this,” Cunningham told me.

When the SensoCard Plus becomes available in the United States, it will be a great gift for someone you probably know who needs it.

The Other Talkies

When the SensoCard Plus becomes available in the United States, it is likely to be less expensive than the leading alternative. In England, the meter kit sells for £149, or about $260. A box of 50 test strips retails for £23.50, or about $40. The U.S. price hasn’t been set.

Roche’s Accu-Chek Voicemate is the top talking meter on the American market now. But compared to the SensoCard Plus, it is bigger and heavier—and considerably more expensive. It retails for $500 to $600.

The less well known alternatives are the Captek/Science Products’ Digi-Voice Deluxe at $275 and the Mini-DV at about $220. Both of these work only with the old LifeScan Basic and LifeScan SureStep meters.

Diabetes Support Program in Wellington, Florida, has just introduced a new talking blood glucose meter called the Prodigy. This remarkable little meter not only talks, but uses only 0.6 microliters of blood and tells your results in seven seconds.

Even more remarkable, according to president Frank P. Suess, is that the company gives away the meter to people with diabetes.

“We will replace another meter at no cost and hope that they will continue to buy our test strips,” Suess says. “The strips are $15.95 for 50, but 90 percent of our customers have some kind of insurance or Medicare or Medicaid, and we accept that.”

Taidoc Technology Corporation in San Chung, Taipei, manufactures the meter and in August 2005 obtained FDA 510(k) clearance to market it in the United States. Taidoc private labels the Prodigy for Diabetes Support Program, which has exclusive rights to sell it in the United States.

Diabetes Support Program can be contacted at (800) 799-1477.

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