Who’s tried Abbott’s new FreeStyle test strips with their fancy new “ZipWik” technology? These are the ones with the Butterfly on them, and the new tapered ends that poke out for much-improved blood uptake. I wrote about them when they were first introduced in this Test Strip News post.
Trouble is, now that they’re being shipped out to customers, nobody’s sure whether they’re compatible with the built-in meter on the OmniPod.
A bunch of people pinged me on the issue this week, and there’s a lot of online discussion / confusion at the moment. Many PWDs and parents of T1 kids have been automatically upgraded to the new strips by their mail-order pharmacies. Should they insist on returning these for the old strips?! And suddenly I realized, this happened to me too!
Some people have even tried comparing the older and newer strips in their OmniPod PDM and found “up to 40 points difference in every test.” Yikes! (But there’s an allowable variation of up to 20% in glucose readings anyway, no?)
So I contacted the folks at both Abbott Diabetes and Insulet, makers of the OmniPod, and here’s the pertinent information I found out:
1. Be aware that there are TWO varieties of FreeStyle test strips — the “classic” strips for basic FreeStyle meters and “lite” strips made specifically for the company’s mini-sized FreeStyle Lite meters. There are also two varieties of the new test strips to service these systems. The meter built into the OmniPod is the “classic” variety, not Lite.
2. This is the important bit: at this point, the newer test strips are only FDA approved for Abbott’s two varieties of FreeStyle meters, and have NOT YET BEEN FDA APPROVED FOR OMNIPOD USE. Because of this, the PR folks at both companies were pretty much under a gag order and unable to make much comment other than to say “people are using them.”
3. The new strips require No Coding, so when used with a regular FreeStyle meter, the system apparently doesn’t ask you to input a code number. If used with the OmniPod, however, you would use the coding on the vial, which seems to always be the number 16. (whatever – as good a number as any, right?)
4. It seems pretty obvious that Abbott plans to phase out the older strips eventually, but for now, they’re making a big point of stating that the older strips are still available. Any OmniPod users who’ve been shipped newer strips and would like to replace those (up to 500 at a time) simply need to contact Abbott Customer Service and they will ship out an equivalent quantity of older strips for you right away, according to Abbott’s Director of Public Affairs Greg Miley. He says they’ll take you on the honor system if you state that you need a certain quantity of replacement strips (the older ones) right away; you’ll be expected to ship the newer strips back to the company in exchange.
While they’re waiting on approval from the FDA, the companies have no choice but to state that they “do not recommend” using the newer strips in the OmniPod system. But many of us have tried it and found that they work just fine — myself included. I can certainly understand why people don’t want to go to the trouble of returning the Butterfly strips (what a PITA).
I’ve been saving my new batch of Butterfly strips for use after I’ve run out of the old ones. I tried them out, however, and was absolutely shocked at how quickly they absorb blood. Almost too quickly. It seems like you could just brush your hand nearby and suddenly — beeeeeepppp! What a departure from aggressively scraping blood onto to the older strips, which I often had to do in order to get a response.
Why would I want to return these new blood-suckers (that’s a good thing here!) for something older and harder to use? Who wants to move backwards?
So in summary, you’ve got two choices: if you’re not willing to take the leap of faith that the new strips will be OK in the OmniPod, then contact Abbott to help you procure older strips asap. Or, like my friend Leighann of D-Mom Blog, you can assume that FDA approval is a formality, and go ahead and start using the new strips right away. As Leighann notes, the FDA is notoriously slow; we might as well enjoy the newest technology, with less blood required, while we wait.