Ten strips a day

Ten strips a day. Those are my directions: “Test 10 times a day as directed”.

I shouldn’t complain.  Ten strips a day isn’t really bad.  Some people have insurance plans that cover a lot less.  Some don’t even have insurance (that should all change in the United States in a couple of years!).  And as we all know, strips are too expensive!

But everyone who has a prescription has a prescribed “per-day” amount.  And, in most cases, that is a perfect amount for a perfect day.  Maybe the doctor says to test before meals, before bed, and before exercise.  Five a day.  Or maybe the prescribed order also states to test before driving, two hours after meals, upon waking up, and once overnight.

Dr. P., a person with Type-2 and winner of last month’s Best of the ‘Betes Advocacy award, was told to only use one strip a day.  She tried arguing for three.

Whatever the test strip allotment may be, it is almost always based on the expectation that everything goes perfectly right.  But when does anything with diabetes goes perfectly right?  If you said “never”, you win.

  • When I went swimming in my parents’ pool over the weekend, I disconnected my non-waterproof pump (I hear you Shannon!).  With the increased exercise and temporary zero-basal rates, I couldn’t really tell what was happening, so I ended up using more strips than usual.

Intentionally getting an Error 5 for the purpose of a blog post? Well, that’s my own damn fault.

  • In fact, any time I test and my blood sugar is low, the so-called “experts” tell met to treat it, wait, and test again. Another strip burned.
  • Conversely, if I test and my blood sugar is high, it might lead lead to a ketone test which also shows up positive.  The remedy: take wild-ass-guess amount of insulin by syringe, then test again.  Often.  Because there’s no telling when the insulin delivery stopped, or when (or how strong) it will start up again.  More strips burned.
  • Occasionally, the mistake is more innocent.  There’s some sort of juicy sweet residue on my fingers and the result is not realistic.  Wash hands, and test again.  Another strip burned.
  • If the result is just plain not believable, even within the 20% tolerance, test again.  If the number is significantly different, then test a third time, to figure out which of the first two were right.  Two more strips burned.
  • Error 05?  That’ll cost you.
  • What if the CGM is asking to be calibrated?  Or if you’re just following directions and using the meter’s control solution? (really!?)

The point is, those allotments are acceptable if you’re trying to collect data for your doctor.  But if you’re really planning on doing something based on the numbers, then the amount of strips needed per day is bound to change.  Sometimes more, sometimes less.  Don’t just read the number, react to the number.

Fortunately for me, I’ve been somehow able to refill my three-month supply a bit before the three months is up.  Otherwise I’d be on the phone with my doctor begging him to write a new prescription for more strips.

But directing a patient to test a specific number of times a day?  That’s ludicrous.  I’d much rather see the prescription read “as needed”.  It’s gotta change.  And I guess this message is what advocacy is all about.

Posted on July 10, 2012, in D-Finance, Diabetes and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. My Rx says test 3x per day. I’m type 2 but I actually adjust my behavior based on my BG #’s and would like to be able to test more. At least my insurance doesn’t have a set #. They’ll give me whatever I can convince the Doc to Rx.


    • If you can show the doc that you are really USING the strips legitimately for those reasons, and after adjusting your behavior (based on the number) that you’re testing again to see how the adjustment worked, I think you should be able to get more than 3-a-day.


  2. Thanks for the shout out! lol And my boxes always say test 10x a day, too. And like you said, sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less…. but we shouldn’t have the resctrictions for sure. I test MINIMUM 5x a day – wake up (to calibrate), before breakfast/lunch/dinner/bedtime. And then there’s always the occasional 2 hour post meal, plus the “I feel low/high” that I need to check. As we all know, any given day could be different, with extenuating circumstances… so we test when we NEED to test.


    • My insulin prescription is for “up to 50 units per day”. I don’t come anywhere near that; I generally hover in the 28-30 unit range (except for “off” days, of course!). Can you imagine if the amount of insulin prescribed was as stingy as the amount of strips covered? The amount wasted in pumping and at the end of the vial alone is huge! I wish the two were looked at in more the same way.


  3. I get my strips sent through a medical supply company, both the company and my doctor asked how many times per day I test and I said, “8 to 10 times.” They sent me enough for exactly 8 times a day for three months. I requested more and my doctor’s office turned it down! I’m completely confused as to how they expect me to keep on top of my self care without extra strips for those instances when they are needed!


    • I’ve made that mistake. My previous endo had my Rx for 12 per day, and when I told this one that I use 10-12, it got knocked down to ten (I’m sure I could bump it up if needed). Sometimes you need to play games with math and considering how many come in a box. If you get a 30-day supply at a time, your Rx is for 8×30=240 strips; you’ll probably get 250. If you ask for just 9 a day, then the Rx jumps to 270. To fill it, they’ll have to give you 300, which is really 10 a day (does that make sense?).


  4. Excellent points here, Scott. It’s so hard to say “x strips per day” because every day is so different and I never know how many times I’m going to test!!


  5. Great post, Scott. This is a really sore subject for me. I’ve tried writing this comment 4 times and each time it’s been longer and more angry. So, I’ll just end this with a, “thanks for your take on this. It reminds me we’re never alone in our frustration!”


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