Add to the already extensive list of alternatives for glucose monitoring the NewTek, a new product from Hypoguard (Minneapolis), the diagnostic division of Medisys (Woodbridge, UK).

The device is meant to be simpler and more convenient to increase the number of times a diabetic patient tests his glucose daily in order to avoid the serious side effects of not controlling glucose over time, such as blindness, amputations and renal failure.

The company said that the NewTek Blood Glucose Monitoring System is unique because it is disposable. It also comes with 100 test strips pre-loaded in the meter.

Hypoguard's director of marketing and sales support, Nancy Clark, told Medical Device Daily that the fact that the device is disposable is important, because with each purchase the patient gets a new monitor that is less likely to be damaged and to determine glucose levels and manage other data accurately.

The cost of the NewTek is $54, compared to a price of about $85 for other monitors, the company said. With diabetes patients most often instructed to test their blood glucose levels four times a day, that would mean that each patient would be required to buy a new monitor every 25 days. "I think what you need to do is look at it from the perspective of 100 tests. If you compare it to some of the national brands with a strip for 100 tests, you can buy the strips [only] for just a little bit more than you're buying the meter and those strips together," Clark said.

Another unique aspect of the monitor is that the test strips last for up to six months, whereas with other monitors they only last typically up to three months, she said. With the NewTek, the test strips are only exposed to the environment once, something that can cause the chemicals in such strips to break down and not accurately read glucose levels.

While the goal for testing is four times a day, Hypo-guard said most patients test far fewer times than that for a variety of reasons, including the pain of lancing, expense and inconvenience if they have lost dexterity in their hands due to age or injury. The company expects that its monitor will make it easier for patients to test.

"One of the most difficult issues for people with diabetes is the discipline of monitoring glucose levels, but it is a critical component of maintaining good health," said Deborah Williams, PhD, diabetes educator at the Texas Cooperative Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Department. "Many people with diabetes who should be testing three to four times a day only do so once or twice because it's inconvenient and strips and monitors are expensive. Some older people only test once or twice a week, and that's not enough to make an accurate assessment."

The monitor is available now exclusively through Wal-Mart (Benton, Arkansas) stores. Clark said Hypoguard held a regional launch last August, but it launched nationally to all stores in January. The agreements with Wal-Mart mean that it will be the only distributor of the NewTek until October, when new distribution agreements may be formed.

She said the company will "stay at that [$54] price point" for the time being. "Right now, [the device] is being fairly well accepted by the consumer."

To get the word out about the product, Hypoguard is placing ads in certain trade journals and "a couple of the diabetes publications," Clark said. The company also demonstrated the device at a diabetes educators trade show, where a device was given to every educator to take back to patients to show how it works.

"It was overwhelmingly received there," she said.