Blood Glucose Meters: Like Razor and Blades, But For Diabetes

The razor and blades model is well known and simple: give away the razors, make money off the blades. Or more specifically: sell one good at an artificially low price (or even give it away) that is reliant on another complimentary, consumable good. It's this consumable good where the real money is made.

The embodiment of this model in the tech space is inkjet printers. The printers (particularly the consumer models) are almost as cheap as the inkjet refills themselves in some cases. Which is why the last time I bought an inkjet printer, I found out what models of cartridges I could refill at Costco for significantly cheaper than buying new ones. Sure, we still have to buy new ones periodically, but it's cheaper than having to buy new ones all the time.

In the Diabetes world, our "razor and blades" device we simply must have: the blood glucose meter. The meters can be had for next to nothing, at least on Amazon. The strips, on the other hand, cost a fortune. Since they can't be reused, unlike a razor blade, which I reuse for weeks and weeks, a test strip can only be used once. This means buying new test strips on a fairly regular basis.

Back when I was first diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, it didn't take long for me to see just monitoring this condition was going to cost a fortune. The cost of the strips for the meter I was given when purchased through insurance: $25 for 50. Even if I'm testing just twice a day, which doesn't count "testing errors" and the like, that's over $180 a year. If I want to test more often, I'd have to buy the strips retail, which, it turns out is actually cheaper if you look on Amazon.

Thankfully, one does not need a prescription to buy a blood glucose meter or the test strips. This allows you to shop around. Back in 2014, I ended up trying the iHealth Labs Bluetooth meter. It had cheaper test strips and Bluetooth support, making it a worthwhile investment. It worked well enough for a time, but eventually the meter stopped being accurate. Which, as I found out later, is fairly common after a year or two.

This led me to using a different meter, one by Ascensia (formerly Bayer). The meter was cheap enough, had Bluetooth and whatnot, but ultimately synced to an app that didn't do much, or sync to Apple HealthKit. The strips, while significantly cheaper on Amazon, are not as cheap as some of the alternatives.

My most recent meter purchase was an EasyTouch Diabetes Testing Kit which includes everything you need to get started. The meter itself is a little larger than my previous meters, and lacks fancy features like Bluetooth, or even a backlit screen. Since I'm logging my blood glucose data into HealthKit manually using a Workflow I created, I'm not seeing a huge benefit to getting a meter that syncs with my phone.

My initial tests with this new meter: similar results to my previous meter. Considering I can get 50% more EasyTouch strips for the same price, it seems like a win-win.