The Pelikan Challenge

I had a fascinating on-site briefing with the folks at Pelikan Sun in Palo Alto on Tuesday. That’s the company that makes the current “gold standard” in lancing — the world’s only electronic and completely painless finger-pricking device (really, it is).

The three founders are veterans of Hewlett-Packard/Agilent Labs, and have spent 10 years refining the technology they acquired from that company. What they’ve come up with is essentially a little “mini-computer” that has “micro-control” over the depth and velocity of the lancing process. Yada, yada, yada. I don’t want to bore you with the technological details. Instead, I want to tell you about the twofold challenge that came out of my visit.


(that’s their fingerprinted front door)

First, I learned about the company’s big PR challenge:

“This is the kind of device that can be life-changing, but you really have to touch it, feel it, try it, to ‘get it.’ We can’t just go out saying ‘it’s painless, it’s painless’ because people have heard all that before,” says marketing director Lisa Rogan.

The device, launched in November 2007, is already a big hit among children with Type 1 and their parents who’ve had a chance to test it in person at an expo or camp. But it’s $200 out-of-pocket for the box itself, and another $15 for every 100 finger pricks (50 non-reusable lancets per disk). “There’s no insurance code for an electronic lancing device, so no coverage,” Rogan notes, although the disks carrying the needles do qualify as regular supplies.

It’s difficult to make the argument that people should shell out this kind of money for a lancing device — something that doesn’t actually change your glucose control in any way — or that they should carry around yet another bulky D-device, in this case at a somewhat chunky 4 x 2.5 x 1 inches.


We had a long talk about all the ecstatic parents who say their kids and teens are so much happier testing with the Pelikan, and therefore get better control with a lot less family stress. I believe it. I believe there are also many newly diagnosed adults, both Type 1 and Type 2, who would test much more regularly if it were just this comfortable to do.

But how to get the word out? Again, you really have to try this thing to become a believer. And that’s kind of what happened to me.

Challenge No. 2: One Month to Better “Finger Health?

We all had a close look at my fingertips. I was kind of embarrassed to discover how pocked and calloused they are, after just four years of this stuff.


Would I be willing to try the Pelikan Sun for three to four weeks on one hand, while using my regular (thumbtack-like) lancet on the other hand to gauge the difference bruises, scars and calluses? You betcha!

Essentially they’re asking me to help with Challenge No. 1, above, but why not? I’m always up for an honest review of an honest product.

And truly, I’d like to get rid of those little black spots where the blood is trapped under thickening skin. I’d like to gain “overall improved finger sensation” so I don’t have to keep cranking my lancing device up to top velocity and then jabbing myself over and over just to draw blood. And then practically needing a tourniquet to stop the flow.

And so I embark on my pain-free lancing journey. Not that the pain itself ever really bothered me. But I am more than willing to do without it, and save my wretched fingers at the same time. So I’m now officially packing the “gold box” with me wherever I go. I chose my right hand, the one in worst shape, to test the Pelikan Sun’s soft touch. Wish me luck.

If you’re interested in testing the Pelikan, here’s a short list of some events the company will be attending. They’re also working hard on getting units out to CDEs across the country so patients can try this thing right where they live.


32 Responses

  1. John
    John April 3, 2008 at 7:34 am | | Reply

    I tried contacting Pelikan because I was interested in their product, but have no inclination to spend that kinda money on something that can be quickly stolen since it doesnt include a plain case and is BLING gold.. To me it says Steal this, and just by including or offering a plain black case similar to other glucose meters, it would make it less of a target for theft.. They Not my idea of stellar customer service.

  2. John
    John April 3, 2008 at 7:36 am | | Reply

    … They didnt bother to respond to my comments/feedback/concern.. Iv actually had my diabetes kit STOLEN from my car trunk TWICE… Having a device that is so eye-catching may attract the wrong attention..

  3. stellasmom
    stellasmom April 3, 2008 at 8:17 am | | Reply

    I have a two-year old with teeny tiny fingers. We test about 10 times a day — it makes me weak to think of her fingers in 10 years. So I thought we’d try the Pelikan to see if it was less painful and promoted faster healing. The proof for me came from my daughter — she will not let us use the “old” lancer; she calls it “the bad one.”

    I got a Rx for it from our kind doctor and was just going to start fighting for insurance coverage (although your article makes me believe this will be a useless attempt).

    The Company should at least provide decent receipts in the packages for use with insurance reimbursement or Section125 medical supply reimbursement.

    I wouldn’t have known about this produce if not for Diabetesmine — thank you!

  4. Bennet
    Bennet April 3, 2008 at 8:28 am | | Reply

    The first step in markting it is trying it.

    I wnated to try one of these at last summer’s Children With Diabetes conference.

    I had to fill out a million forms and sign up for a few month study and give away just about enough information to take out a mortgage.

    About half way through, I bailed.

    I don’t know how the device is but they don’t know jack about painless.

  5. Scoyy
    Scoyy April 3, 2008 at 1:11 pm | | Reply

    I have to agree with Bennet, trying the product is worth far more than personal endorsements from anyone (I really don’t care what Gary Hall, Nicole Johnson-Baker, Patti LaBelle or any other celeb with diabetes says about a device, its simply not credible).

    Let me just add that the Diabetes Research Foundation Conference in New York this fall is not on the list but there may be some changes to that Conference which may be worth considering including the first Adults with T1DM trial conference. But if they’re really serious, they might consider putting sample devices in major clinics across the country (e.g. Joslin, etc.) and even having reps the ADA Diabetes Expos that can offer trials. Its not enough to show these things to doctors and diabetes educators, they need to reach the end user.

    Another thought: consider having a loaner device program like the pump companies provide. As I said, there’s no way to replicate the experience of test driving one of these devices.

  6. Beth
    Beth April 3, 2008 at 1:25 pm | | Reply

    We’ve had the Pelikan for about 3 months now and rarely use anything else. Everyone says they are “used to” their current lancing device , but it is amazing what a relief it is for that fingerprick not to hurt. There is a world of difference between “virtually painless” like most devices, and “really, truly, actually painless” like the Pelikan. The greatly reduced scarring is an excellent bonus.

    I do wish there was an insurance category for this, because I believe improved lancing will lead to more frequent testing and better BG control.

    I also have to speak up for Pelikan the company; they have been very responsive to me.

    Good luck with the challenge, Amy — I think you’ll be impressed with the results.

  7. David P.
    David P. April 3, 2008 at 7:05 pm | | Reply

    re the picture of your finger tips, they appear punctured (lanced) on the pads. I think the better (approved?) procedure is to lance on the sides of your fingers, not the pads. There are fewer nerve ending on the sides and just as good a blood flow in my opinion. FWIW, I’ve been lancing 5 or 6 times/day for 28 years, rotate lancing sites regularly and don’t seem to have any scar tissue.

  8. June S
    June S April 4, 2008 at 4:06 am | | Reply

    One look at your fingertips makes me wonder why you don’t prick your fingers on the sides, rather than directly on the finger pads. I began pricking my fingers in 1982, when I first discovered the treated strips (whose name I can’t recall) that you applied blood to and then compared the color that they turned with your blood to the side of the vial. I was doing that at least 10 times per day, and when blood glucose meters came along I began testing about 12 times per day, and on a bad day I have tested as often as 20 times per day. My finger pads are free of little dots, though the sides of my fingers are covered with them.

    June S

  9. Mark
    Mark April 4, 2008 at 5:13 am | | Reply

    I have to agree with some of the other comments (David P) regarding the condition of your fingers. I have been testing since 1981, and my fingers do not resemble yours at all. I know that you have other issues besides diabetes that might come into play, but have you asked your Doctor if this is typical for a person with that has had diabetes for a relatively short time?

  10. Florian
    Florian April 4, 2008 at 6:49 am | | Reply

    Is anyone of the three founders of Pelikan a practicing Type 1?

    I agree with the others Amy your fingers don’t look good at all. I have been a Type 1 since 1967 and testing blood glucose since the mid 80′s when I got my first glucometer. Over the years I have tried many different ways and devices to get those few microliters of blood for testing.

    The method that works best for me today is to gently tap the side of the finger tip with a new BD 33ga lancet for each test. I don’t use a spring loaded lancing device. Using a new lancet each time makes a big difference in the amount of discomfort (pain)and tissue damage. My fingers show very little signs of testing 8 to 10 times a day and more on work out days.

  11. AmyT
    AmyT April 4, 2008 at 8:40 am | | Reply

    Hey John,

    The theft argument seems a little crazy: if I left my OmniPod lying around, no doubt someone would mistake it for a Blackberry and nab it, too. So I don’t leave my devices where thieves may be tempted.

  12. John
    John April 4, 2008 at 9:15 am | | Reply

    Tend to disagree with you.. I could see someone knicking this out of a pocket/bag because its shiny and GOLD colored and brings needless attention to itself. Its no different than an Ipod.. Hence why I don’t carry one… Plus i think its tacky and unprofessional carrying around something thats blinged out like a cheap pair of spinner rims..

    Ah well..
    It still warranted some sort of reply by the vendor, regardless of whether they agree or not..

    Nice to be able to afford things such as insulin pumps isnt it?

    Im curious. of course you wouldn’t leave the interface around but its not in a faux gold finish to bring attention to itself either…

    Perhaps someone here feels that one does NOT want to bring unwanted attention to 1. Their disability … I actually have been harassed by a parent for injecting an insulin pen at a restraunt and was told.. Oh you should do that in the bathroom… hence *another* reason i like the idea of discretion.. that GOLD BLING doesnt bring to the party.

  13. AmyT
    AmyT April 4, 2008 at 1:59 pm | | Reply

    Oooh, I didn’t get that memo about the “pads.” And/or I’m just a sloppy lancer. In either case, I’m lovin’ the Pelikan so far!

  14. riva
    riva April 4, 2008 at 4:23 pm | | Reply

    I was in Pelikan Sun’s trial. The lancing device is incrediblly painless. I am coming down to my last wheel of lancets and moaning because I will have to go back to painful lancing. They are not going to win with this winning product until they get HMOs to cover their lancets unfortunately. But if money is no object, or you have a child and can swing it, go for it.

  15. Adam Greene
    Adam Greene April 4, 2008 at 8:14 pm | | Reply

    Hey everyone,
    for those of you that have used it; besides the pain factor, how is it to carry around and generally use? I’m a bit of a sucker for the freestyle because it is so small, and the Pelikan looks quiet hefty in comparison.

  16. john
    john April 5, 2008 at 6:37 am | | Reply

    For a fair comparison, make sure you are changing the lancet each time on your old poker.

  17. Elissa
    Elissa April 5, 2008 at 7:48 am | | Reply

    They should try to cut down on the size and conspicuous appearance. As far as the cost and reimbursement issues, maybe they could use the razor-blade model (like meters do); take an initial loss on the device itself and gouge on the lancets indefinitely?

  18. AmyT
    AmyT April 5, 2008 at 11:45 am | | Reply

    On the theft issue, I’m actually finding it kind of amusing — picturing the thieves getting the Pelkian device home and then standing on their heads trying to figure out what this thing is good for: darn, it doesn’t play MP3s…!

  19. Bennet
    Bennet April 5, 2008 at 1:45 pm | | Reply

    There is a hread about this thing over at CWD

  20. Jef
    Jef April 6, 2008 at 11:07 pm | | Reply

    Is lancing really all that bad? With the BD lancets there is no pain, even with a three month old lancet there is no pain.

    I have a hard time getting excited about products like these. $200 for a device + $15 for 100 lancets that aren’t reusable really doesn’t sound like a deal to me, even if it did hurt.

  21. Brady
    Brady April 7, 2008 at 12:02 am | | Reply

    I’ve only been a diabetic for 4 years, but Amy – you really should lance on the side of your fingers. It’s much less painful, and the blood flow is actually better. I agree with the above poster who doesn’t get any pain from old lancets, though – I rarely change lancets, and when I do, I don’t really notice much of a difference.

    In other news, if you want a laugh:

  22. karin
    karin April 7, 2008 at 5:56 am | | Reply

    Sent a link to their site to my CDE as soon as I read this! She called and I can’t wait until it comes in!!!

  23. Scott
    Scott April 22, 2008 at 2:07 pm | | Reply

    Amy, just a follow-up:

    First, your fingers look much like mine do (although I’ve had diabetes for 28 years more than you have), and I suspect that some people are more prone to this than others.

    Florian’s comment is probably accurate especially with regards to spring-loaded lancet devices, and probably also about gently tapping the side of the finger tip with a new BD 33ga lancet for each test but I often test on the run and don’t have the luxury of time to get a brand new lancet, pierce around the edge of my finger and all of these recommendations — they probably work, but aren’t exactly made for busy people. For me, the biggest issue is that few lancet devices enable great precision on where the piercing will occur, and I’d be curious if Pelican delivers on that.

    Finally, did the company ever respond to the my comment about having a loaner device program like the pump companies provide? As I said, there’s no way to replicate the experience of “test driving” one of these devices and that might convince others its worth trying!

  24. Gary
    Gary May 9, 2009 at 5:10 am | | Reply

    There’s a reason why these folks don’t distribute through normal durable medical goods suppliers; MONEY.

    We’re fortunate in that our insurance company would reimburse for all, including shipping. That took about a months worth of work on my part. There was the potential for Pelikan to make a lot of money with the contact information I would have offered; ours is a major carrier and the door would have been wide open. Given the current economy, especially in durable medical equipment, I would have thought that this might have been worth something.

    Well, one of their management team left a message thanking me and proffering “any help” he could provide. I took that at face value and asked for a device gratis, for a friend who had recently lost her job. He replied that he had some “cost constraints” on his end (read; he wasn’t going to get his commission) This, after I agreed to buy the device for my wife and be locked in to purchasing their proprietary lancets ad infinitum.

    Needless to say, he didn’t care to help. Needless to say, I didn’t purchase.

    The moral to this story; there is an arrogance within these niche companies that is both disturbing and disgusting. Be forewarned.

  25. Leslie
    Leslie May 29, 2009 at 10:40 am | | Reply

    That was harsh, Gary! A $200 lancing device is not a necessity! Besides, someone who is unemployed would probably rather not pay $15/cartridge.

  26. Brandy
    Brandy July 17, 2009 at 10:11 pm | | Reply

    We purchsed the pelikan sun for my 4 year old son about 1 1/2 years ago. This product is amazing. He barley feels anything with the Pelikan and night time testing has become even easier, he never even flinches. I think that the price is fair and our insurance actually covers the cost of the device and the lancets. I will only use his old lancing device when we are out an about, beacuse of the fear of loosing the pelikan (it has become our life line at home). His old lancing device is used very rarley and you can definately see a large difference between the two. The old one hurts and leaves marks on on his fingers, the pelikan does none of these. I recommend the pelikan to everyone that I come in contact with. If one thing can make the life of someone with Diabetes a lttle easier then why not try it. Thank you Pelikan Sun!

  27. Bruce
    Bruce February 10, 2010 at 11:20 pm | | Reply

    It’s been discontinued, which is very disturbing because this was such an amazing product. I’ve become very dependent on it and really hate the idea of reverting to conventional lancing technology.

  28. Infin Space
    Infin Space May 3, 2010 at 9:30 am | | Reply

    I like to try, but Peliakn Sun seem no longer exist in the market….!? I don’t might to purchase a used one, but don’t know where can I get it.

  29. Gary
    Gary June 12, 2010 at 3:26 pm | | Reply

    See my post of May 9, 2009.

    Apparently their arrogance finally caught up with them.

  30. Jenny
    Jenny June 21, 2010 at 12:51 pm | | Reply

    Arrogance! Maybe they got sick of arrogant people asking for free devices! NOTHING around here is free, maybe I should move to your town where apparently things are free if you ask for it. Or, maybe if you felt so badly for your friend (and I use the term loosely) you should have bought one for her! Especially since you managed to get it covered with your insurance company. I am SICK that this device has been discontinued. We depend on it every day to make our son’s life a bit less painful. Shame on you!

  31. Jenny
    Jenny June 22, 2010 at 6:29 am | | Reply

    Amy- My post is in response to Gary in the post right above mine. Like he says, see the May 9th post. We still have a few disks left and as they dwindle down, I’m going to have to figure out what to do.

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