Doubts over self-monitoring kits for type-2 diabetics

Experts have condemned the £100 million in NHS funding spent each year on self-monitoring kits for type-2 diabetics, which have no apparent benefit and could even cause harm.

There seems to be little point in type-2 diabetics who are not reliant on insulin keeping track of their blood glucose, according to two UK studies published in the BMJ last week.

The first, conducted in Ulster, showed self-testing had no benefit for blood glucose control or the risk of hypoglycaemia. The only effect self-testing seemed to have on the 184 participants was to leave them feeling depressed and anxious. 

A second trial involving 453 type-2 diabetics randomly assigned to standard care or glucose monitors for 12 months also found self-monitoring to be a waste of money.

Self-monitoring kits cost around £90 extra per patient per year. But no significant difference was found between the groups, even if given training in how to interpret the results. 

This is the first evidence that, rather than at worse act as a benign placebo, self-testing holds potential harms, points out Professor Martin Gulliford, a public health expert at King's College London.

BMJ Online 2008

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