Background: Recent evidence suggests that, despite widespread use, self-monitoring of blood glucose levels has little clinical benefit in many patients with diabetes. The impact of more focused public-payer policies for the use of blood glucose test strips may be substantial.
Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional analysis of annual prescription claims for test strips between 1997 and 2008 for patients in Ontario aged 65 and older with diabetes. Patients were stratified into 1 of 4 hierarchical groups according to the most intensive glucose-lowering treatment received during each calendar year. Test strip use was calculated annually for each group over the study period, and the effects of 5 hypothetical policy scenarios of more selective test strip use were assessed.
Results: Test strip use increased by almost 250% from 1997 to 2008, with 52.6% (n = 263,513) of included patients receiving a prescription during 2008. Almost half of these patients were at low risk for drug-induced hypoglycemia. In 2008, over 117 million test strips were dispensed in Ontario; however, more focused policy scenarios could have reduced this number by between 9.5 million and 74.5 million test strips.
Interpretation: Many people who self-monitor their blood glucose are at relatively low risk for drug-induced hypoglycemia. The economic benefits associated with more selective testing could be redirected to more effective interventions for patients with diabetes.