By: Daniel Trecroci
“When I think of how long I have waited for the GlucoWatch Biographer, I could just cry!”
This sentiment—brought to you by Judy Laznovsky of Cape Coral, Florida—is not exclusive to just one person in the diabetes community.
On April 15, Cygnus, Inc., of Redwood City, California, announced that the GlucoWatch Biographer was finally available to adults with diabetes, by direct mail order with Visa or MasterCard. It had been a long time coming for many people with diabetes who had anxiously awaited the arrival of the device and hinged their hopes on its every clinical trial, pre-market application and eventual approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on March 22, 2001.
However, on April 15, 2002, when word hit the street of what the GlucoWatch would cost, the jaws of these persevering souls hit the ground with a deep thud! The reason for the collective gape? The cost of the Gluco-Watch—$595, plus $8.62 per day for the AutoSensors, which last 12 hours each ($3,146.30 per year)!
A Rich Person’s Toy?
“The cost is way over my budget,” laments Laznovsky. “And to think I was so excited when I first heard about this. I am a type 1 senior citizen living on Social Security. This is a rich person’s toy.”
Or, as J. Michael Anderson tells Diabetes Health—”Too rich for my blood glucose!”
Manny Patino, a type 1 from Flushing, New York, is angry at the exorbitant price of the GlucoWatch. He feels it lends credence to the view of diabetes as a “profitable” disease.
“As long as there is a market for any device that can keep the pockets of its manufacturer full and—if you can afford it—diabetes in check, then there will never be any cure for diabetes. The day there is a cure, who will be so crazy to want to stop big profits from coming in? Who’s going to want to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs? Nobody! Diabetes has become big business for many bloodsuckers out there.”
Patino says he understands that every business has the right to make a profit. Furthermore, if people with diabetes want technology to help them, they must accept that profits are the incentives that attract investors and business.
“But why squeeze people with diabetes?” he asks. “The cost of manufacturing diabetes supplies keeps dropping, and sales are up. Instead of the retail price dropping, diabetes supplies and medication just keep on getting more expensive.”
Patricia Johnson believes it is great that the GlucoWatch is now available for purchase, but she also questions Cygnus’s marketing objectives.
“Just how many people do they think can afford it?” she asks.
Johnson has had diabetes for 38 years. Her son has had it for 37. She describes this as just another example of drug and insurance companies telling people with diabetes how to live.
“[We are told] what we can eat, what we can do and what we can’t do. My son has insurance, and they tell him what blood-glucose meter he has to use.”
Johnson adds that she would love to have a GlucoWatch but cannot afford one.
Bridget Murphy of Broadview Heights, Ohio, is another person who’s excited about the GlucoWatch, but she plans to purchase it only under one condition:
“If I win the lottery this weekend.”
Some Didn’t Plan to Purchase One Anyway
Michael Kurtis of Suffern, New York, reports that he will not purchase a GlucoWatch, but explains that his decision has nothing to do with cost.
“As a person with type 1 diabetes, and understanding the margin of error noted for this device, I believe it could easily become a bad habit to avoid fingersticking, one that I do not want to get addicted to,” he notes. “This item was not approved to be a substitute for blood-glucose testing. I believe an insulin-dependent person should be wary of any device that could mislead him or her into injecting too much or too little.”
Elin Horwedel, a type 1 from San Francisco, California, agrees that, in addition to the cost of the Gluco-Watch and the AutoSensors, there are too many “caveats” one has to consider, “such as the need to default to other testing methods under certain circumstances.”
Leah Sees believes that insurance companies will be slow to agree to offer coverage for the GlucoWatch and its AutoSensors “since there are perfectly acceptable substitutes that are far cheaper.”
Worth the Cost?
Others will be making good on their intention to eventually purchase the GlucoWatch.
“Seeing real-time glucose readings will be worth the cost,” says Dick Heiser, a type 1 from Los Angeles, California. “I’ll be able to keep my glucose in a narrower, healthier range. It will show me more clearly the dynamics and patterns of blood glucose.”
Heiser says he does not plan to wear the GlucoWatch every day but will instead keep it for travel, unusual situations and sick days.
“My first plan will be to see if the watch can help me manage a restaurant or buffet meal,” he adds.
Dave Pease of Sunnyvale, Texas, has type 2 diabetes, which he controls with insulin. He believes that the GlucoWatch could provide the information he needs to learn how diabetes affects him.
“Most of us have a learning curve for foods, exercise and medication,” he says. “The GlucoWatch would be a great teacher.”
Pease says the cost of the watch itself, as a one-time expense, could be tolerable. However, “at the current AutoSensor usage expense,” he does not plan to purchase one.
Jan Porchia of Glendora, California, also plans to buy the GlucoWatch “in a heartbeat” when the Auto-Sensors are not so expensive.
“A one-time $600 cost I could handle, but over $250/month is too steep for me,” she writes. “If I had some assurance the price would come down in the near future, I would consider it.”
Kathleen Turturice of Oakland, California, says she has waited years for the GlucoWatch, and she wants one right now—despite any associated costs.
“The day after I return to work,” she vows, “I’ll be placing my order.”