Wait, where was I going with this? Why was I at the airport? And why did I miss a day of work at my "real job" to fly to New Jersey for 19 hours?
Tuesday marked the U.S. launch of a new type of blood glucose meter: the iBGStar. The big deal with this little guy is that it plugs into an iPhone or Touch, and the corresponding app will track and chart your results (and allow you to email them to, say, your doctor) as well as giving you the option to log carbs and insulin. The meter is very teeny tiny (roughly the size of a flash drive), and can be used independent of your i-device, or in correlation with it.
Did you catch that? It plugs into a freaking iPhone. What is this, the future? Where is my hoverboard?
Sanofi US Diabetes brought a handful of what they dubbed "Key Online Opinion Leaders" (which creates the uncomfortable acronym "KOOL" - cringe) to their headquarters in Bridgewater, NJ to hear all about it, test drive the actual meter, and be able to ask questions directly of the people involved in the product's launch. I somehow ended up on that list, along with a few other familiar (and some, less so - to me) faces.
|From L to R: Shawna Gvazdauskas, VP and Device Head US Diabetes;
Brian Dolan; Riva Greenberg; Emily Coles; Laura Kolodjeski,
Sr. Manager, Patient Solutions; Allison Blass; me; Adam Brown;
Kerri Sparling; Kelly Close. Not pictured: Leighann Calentine;
|Photos courtesy of Sanofi
That said, I was pretty impressed during the few hours I spent with the Sanofi team. The attitude described by Shawna Gvazdauskas is that Sanofi wants to "delight their customers": notice that she said customers, not "patients". (That kind of thoughtful word choice was apparent throughout the afternoon - "check" instead of "test; the omission of "good" and "bad" from the BG vocabulary; etc.) That's the reality now: most people with diabetes have more choices than ever, and pharma has to compete and exceed the expectations of end-users to keep up. This means that Sanofi is looking more and more to meet people "at their lives, not just at their disease". Give us what fits into our lives, instead of something that we then have to find a way to fit into our lives. Give us something that helps us feel better about doing something that you don't like doing in the first place.
So what might you want to know about this meter?
- The iBGStar received FDA approval in December of last year, so why the long wait? They wanted to make sure they had the product available in multiple channels (which it is now, through places like Walgreens and Apple stores - no kidding) for people once it was released. Once that was in place, they could officially "launch" it in the U.S.
- If you compare the kits in, say, Walgreens vs. Apple stores, you'll notice a price difference: $74.95 at Walgreens (which comes with 10 test strips) and $99.95 at Apple (which comes with 50 strips, since they don't sell the strips seperately).
- You may also wonder, is there a case available that houses the combined device and meter? Yep, there is, and I'm told that it will be available through a loyalty program. It only comes in black at this point. (I clicked around for a while once I registered my meter and couldn't find anything about the case... this might be a "down the road" thing, so don't quote me here.)
- Sanofi has a "Star Savings" program - this is where actually registering your meter on the iBGStar site will come in handy - which you can sign up for on their website. You can either print off the savings card or have it texted to you. (I opted for the latter - shocking to no one, likely.) Provided that you aren't using Medicare or don't live in MA, the card will get you twelve monthly refills for no more than $20 [EDIT: They are $20 refills, providing that your insurance is covering the script. If not, the card only knocks $25 off the retail price for each box. Details can be found here on how that works.] I have no idea about insurance coverage at this point, but I can tell you that our insurance provider (one of the big ones) told me yesterday that it wasn't covered yet. Bummer.
- This meter is marketed to a very niche market, and Sanofi knows that: people with diabetes (or caregivers) who also own an iPhone or Touch. That amounts to approximately 1.6 million people in the U.S. - cool technology, but it's not available to a whole lot of people. And for those using an Android, the official word was that "other smart phones are under investigationbut [they] have nothing more to share at this time
- iBGStar's test strips have a "fill window", and the meter apparently won't begin the countdown until that fill window is... well... filled. Less error messages and wasted strips? Yes, please.
- The meter can be used independently of an i-device, and once plugged in again will "catch up" everything that's been missed into the application, once you've opened it.
- There are no claims of superior accuracy with this meter. It's on par with most other meters out there.
I think it's a really slick little meter. Among other things, I asked about the aesthetics of the accessories that come with the meter - the test strip bottle, the lancing device - because you'll notice that while the meter may be sleek and modern, it is flanked by equipment that is decidedly not.
|New hotness, right next to old and busted. (It's not really busted.
Just click the link. It will make sense.)
[EDIT: Apparently, I won't be trying this out for a while - my insurance won't cover the strips yet, and unfortunately a month's worth of strips for me is about equal to a car payment. So - back to the One Touch meters after these 10 strips are gone! Bummer.]
Disclosure: Sanofi US Diabetes paid for my flights, ground transportation and hotel while I was in New Jersey, as well as some of my meals. I received an iBGStar meter at the meeting, which was mine to keep. I was not asked to write about this event.
Also, hat tip to Cherise Shockley for the title of this post. Funky fresh, indeed.