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Dr. Bill's Commentaries

Nice idea, but…   (November 28, 2008)

Someone recently asked me about the availability of the GlucoWatch (which is no longer available), and it led me to think of some other nice ideas that didn't work.

First, though, more about the GlucoWatch Biographer. This device was promoted as the first "minimally-invasive" blood glucose meter: something you could wear like a wristwatch, but which would display your blood sugar level. Nice idea, but, as David Mendosa pointed out, there were lots of practical problems, not the least of which is that you still needed to do blood sugars by fingerstick every day to calibrate it! And sometimes it wouldn't calibrate. And it takes two hours to "warm up." And the results lag behind blood sugar levels by 15 minutes. And results differed from fingerstick results by 30 percent or more one-fourth of the time, especially at low glucose levels. And at least half of the users experienced mild to moderate skin irritation. And it might shut itself off. It's no longer available: the manufacturer sold it to a bigger diabetes company, who withdrew the device and later withdrew sale of the needed supplies.

Another: Tagatose. Tagatose was (is?) the name of a non-caloric sweetener that was approved by the FDA in 2003, but couldn't find a place in a crowded marketplace: the company announced "While progress has been made in creating a market for this innovative sweetener, it has not been possible to identify a volume potential justifying continued investments." A sweet idea, but one that didn't cut the mustard…

And another: Laser fingerstickers. Imagine using a laser to painlessly perforate your skin to get a drop of blood instead of a metal pricker. Yes, a company called Cell Robotics created the Lasette, which used laser energy to penetrate the skin. Clinical testing showed that adequately trained patients can perform finger pin pricks with the laser device as easily and accurately as with lancets. But the Lasette required proper maintenance and instruction in order to be used safely and effectively. For example, the laser must be kept clean in order to preserve its accuracy. And there is a noticeable odor of burning flesh with each test. And you could buy a whole bunch of lancets for the price of the device: one website quoted it at $495 as of July 2004. But the company's website no longer exists as of today, and apparently the product doesn't, either.

So, whenever I wander through the displays at the exhibit area of diabetes meetings, looking at the "latest and greatest," I always think, gee, the gadget on display is nice, but will it actually become part of diabetes care, or will we someday be saying "nice idea, but…"?

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Dr. Bill Quick began writing at HealthCentral's diabetes website in November, 2006. These essays are reproduced at D-is-for-Diabetes with the permission of HealthCentral.

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