by Dr. Tina Marcantel

Bad glucometer test strips, whether counterfeit or contaminated, could lead to serious problems for diabetics. Dr. Tina Marcantel is a naturopathic physician practicing in Gilbert, Arizona, and serving Mesa, Chandler, Tempe, Apache Junction, Queen Creek, and the greater Phoenix area.

A recent experience with one of my patients prompted me to write this cautionary tale about how using bad glucometer test strips could potentially lead to serious problems.

Harry had been on my diabetic “jump start” program for several weeks and we were trying to get his blood sugars into an acceptable range. He was doing all the right things: he was faithfully following the diet plan I had given him, taking his medication properly, and exercising regularly. Still, he was getting very high glucose readings when he did his glucometer testing at home.

Something wasn’t adding up. I was concerned about Harry’s high glucose readings, but I was reluctant to raise the dosage of his medication because I knew that he should be getting very different results after following the program for several weeks. At the beginning of the program I had checked his glucometer and it was working properly. As we discussed the case, it turned out that Harry had recently purchased new test strips. I asked him to go back to the pharmacy where he had purchased the glucometer and strips to be sure they were working properly.

The glucometer was fine, but when Harry contacted the company that made the test strips, he learned that the batch he had purchased had been recalled because they were contaminated. The contaminated strips would give inaccurate glucose readings and were to be returned to the company or discarded immediately. When Harry bought new test strips, his glucose readings were suddenly within the target areas we were hoping for.

The lesson in this? Always be sure that your glucometer and test strips are working properly. Keep your doctor informed and let him or her know if the test results you are getting don’t seem to be accurate. A physician who is simply looking at blood sugar test results could easily be misled into improperly altering your medication if you do not express your concerns about their accuracy, and that could lead to very serious consequences for your health.