Aim Self-monitoring of blood glucose is often considered a cornerstone of self-care for patients with diabetes. We assessed whether provision of free testing strips would improve glycaemic control in non-insulin-treated Type 2 diabetic patients.
Methods Adults with Type 2 diabetes, excluding those with private insurance or using insulin, were recruited through community pharmacies and randomized to receive free testing strips for 6 months or not; all patients received similar baseline education and a glucose meter. Primary outcome was change in HbA1c over 6 months.
Results We randomized 262 patients (131 intervention and 131 control subjects). Mean age was 68.4 years (sd 10.9), 48% were male, mean duration of diabetes was 8.2 years (sd 7.2), 97% used oral glucose-lowering agents and mean baseline HbA1c was 7.4% (sd 1.2). After 6 months, we observed no difference in HbA1c between intervention and control patients, after adjusting for baseline HbA1c[adjusted difference 0.03, 95% confidence interval (CI) −0.16, 0.22; P = 0.78]. A per protocol analysis of study completers (152/262; 60%) yielded similar results. Intervention patients reported testing 0.64 days per week more often than control subjects (95% CI 0.18, 1.10; P = 0.007), although testing was not associated with better glycaemic control (Pearson r = −0.10, P = 0.12).
Conclusions Reducing financial barriers by providing free testing strips did not improve glycaemic control in patients with Type 2 diabetes not using insulin. Our results question the value of policies that reduce financial barriers to testing supplies in this population.