Diabetes doesn’t stop me from being a long-distance runner, but it does complicate my runs. A few days ago, for example, while running early on a damp and chilly morning, I began to feel weak. After eight miles, I stopped to check my blood sugar. I took my glucose meter and test strips out of my pack and fished around for the lancing device which, it turned out, had gotten stuck on the side underneath a package of GU gel. When I finally got it all out, I put a test strip into the meter but my fingers were wet and it didn’t work. (I got an “error” message.) I tried to get another test strip out, however, my hands were full and being in a hurry (a friend was waiting for me), I dropped the entire container of test strips onto the pavement. They all spilled out on the wet ground.
While not everyone with diabetes runs, I imagine there aren’t many diabetics who haven’t found themselves testing their blood sugar in less than comfortable situations- schools, restaurants, bars, airplanes or just outside. No matter where you are, blood sugar testing is really never convenient. Over the years, that hasn’t changed as diabetes technology improved. Glucose meters have become smaller, slicker, and cooler, but the components of test kits have remained essentially the same, with three parts – the meter itself, the test strip container, and the lancing device. So it seems as if the companies developing new glucose meters haven’t really been focusing on the convenience aspect of testing blood sugar, which is really a priority for patients.
And then Mendor came along. Mendor, a Finnish company committed to the design, development and marketing of advanced diabetes management products, has developed an all- in-one glucose meter, the Mendor Discreet. What does all-in-one mean? It means that the meter, the lancing device, and a cartridge of 25 test strips are all part of one little box, approximately the size of an iphone.
A few weeks ago I received a Mendor Discreet glucose meter* to sample. The meter arrived packaged with a sealed cartridge of test strips, tiny lancets, a small bottle of control solution, a data cable (for downloading data) into their software, Balance, and a CD with user instructions (along with paper set-up instructions). My first reaction when I took the meter out of its box was “It’s much bigger than my glucometer.” But when I thought about it for a minute I realized that it’s actually smaller since there is no need to carry a case with strips and a lancing device.
Setting up the meter, which is encased in a transparent plastic protector, was easy enough. Once it’s been loaded with a cartridge of 25 strips and a lancet, you are good to go. When you lift the protector, it automatically produces a test strip ready for use. The internal lancet device is also primed by the opening of the case.
The Mendor Discreet requires a small blood sample and returns a result in five seconds. Once you’re done testing, you just pull out the test strip and close the case. It is extremely convenient and easy to use, but once it’s been opened and the test strip is out, it cannot be returned to its cartridge. So there is no showing off this toy. Here is a video where you can see just how simple the testing process is.
Like most diabetes product companies, Mendor says it designed its products together with users and diabetes experts to address the needs of people with diabetes. After using this product I have to say that I believe them. Because I had a few questions and because I wanted to learn more about Mendor and their products, I talked to Karla Asikainen, account manager, who kindly answered my questions.
What can you tell us about the design of the clear box? How sturdy is it? If it breaks can I still use the glucometer?
The covers of the meter actually serve several functions. They keep the meter safe from humidity and dirt but also work as actual operating parts in the functioning of the meter. For example, the strip is ejected by pulling the lower cover down and a pull even further down will prime the lancing device. This allows our meter to be completely silent because it does not have an engine operating the operation mechanisms. The plastic covers have been tested extensively and have been proved to protect the meter, which is why there is no need for any separate carrying case, and also to endure heavy use. In case the covers for some reason would break, we are offering new covers as spare parts free of charge to the customer.
What if the lancet doesn’t prick well enough to get a good drop of blood on the first try? Can I prick my finger again without getting a new test strip out?
Yes. As the movements for the ejection of the strip and the priming of the lancing device are separate, the lancet can be primed several times without having to waste a test strip. When pulling the lower cover down to the first position, a test strip will eject. Only after this when the lower cover is pulled further down to the second position, will the lancing device “load”. Therefore, the lancing device can be primed several times with the strip already out waiting for a blood drop without having to close the covers and eject a new strip. If the lancet doesn’t prick well enough, it might be good to adjust the lancing depth. By detaching the lancet holder part and rotating it, the lancing device can be set to four different lancing depths (I, II, III or IIII). This allows a pain free pricking for those with delicate skin but also to those who have thicker skin.
I really appreciate the all-in-one feature of Mendor discreet. That said, it’s still quite large – and new tiny meters like iBGStar are entering the market. Are you concerned that consumers will prefer something that’s tiny?
In comparing the sizes of different blood glucose monitoring systems all the components needed for the patient to be carried around should be taken into consideration. Even though our meter may be bigger than some other meters in the market, it is the only one which does not require the diabetic to carry any other components with them. Therefore, the small size of a meter does not tell the whole story. If you compare the traditional carrying bag with all these components in it to our device, our device actually is a lot smaller.
And because of the protective covers, our meter does not need any carrying case and therefore actually fits into a pocket or a purse.
The blood glucose meter market is a well-populated one, occupied by some of the biggest names in medical devices. How will you compete with the big names like Johnson&Johnson/Lifescan, Roche, and Bayer? Where do you see room for upstarts like yourselves?
Even though the blood glucose meter market is very competitive, we feel that we can offer significant differential value to the patients with our new approach to blood glucose management. As all the diabetics may well know, the market has not seen many innovations from the big companies in the last ten years and most of the blood glucose meters in the market seem more than outdated considering the technologies currently available. As in many industries, innovations usually come from start-up companies that are able to offer something totally different from what is currently available. Our device offers the most benefits to those patients who lead an active life and are on the move because they can measure their blood glucose where ever they are without having to first put all the components together and without having to carry a bag of separate components. Our device really makes a difference to many diabetics and it is always overwhelming in the best possible way to see the reactions of the patients using our meter who had lost faith in there actually being an easier and faster way for measuring before seeing our device.
The marketing material for the Discreet meter features beautiful, lithe young models, and I would assume you were advertising Calvin Klein apparel if not for the meters in hand. This is a notable contrast to the recent campaigns from Freestyle and OneTouch that tend to feature older diabetics. Are you targeting a different market than other meter companies? Are you concerned that the current marketing campaign positions you outside of the largest (and still growing) market for blood glucose meters– older type 2 diabetics? Would you say that type 1 diabetics are your target audience?
Our first marketing campaign was designed to stand out from the crowd because the device is something different compared to the traditional blood glucose meters. Our meter can bring benefits to all diabetics with making the daily measurements faster, easier and discreet. Of course the people with diabetes who have to measure their blood glucose often, benefit the most from our all-in-one design when the lancing device, 25 strips and the meter itself are all readily available for performing the measurement without any time consuming set-up. Also, because of the design of the meter, the testing can be done even on the move as all the components are integrated into the device and there is no need to play around with several different components.
We understand that people who only need to measure their glucose values for example once a week might not see the need for making that measurement process more effective or easier but with the people who measure several times a day the performing of the measurements actually takes up a lot of time and effort – making this faster, easier, portable and even stylish and discreet with our meter’s design is a great benefit to these patient as we have heard from so many people in our studies. The whole concept behind our idea is actually from a diabetic himself, one of our founding members, a type 1 diabetic, designed the first prototypes of the device because he knew that there would have to be a way to make the testing more user friendly than what the traditional meters were offering. From his original designs the work started and we spent four years working closely together with both type 1 and type 2 diabetics to get as much user input as possible into the process and also worked with several leading diabetologists in ensuring that the device would offer benefits also from the medical point of view. After this four year development period, the Mendor Discreet meter finally got the European CE mark in late 2010 and was launched at the start of the year 2011.
One of the appeals of the Discreet meter is that it looks like a music player or smartphone. Are there any plans to integrate the meter with actual smartphones and other mobile devices? What is the current timeline for Mac OS X support?’
We should have the Mac OS X support up and running in a very short time – we are looking to release a new improved version of Balance in the next weeks that will be more robust, more user friendly and easier to use. Unfortunately, I cannot share any specific plans for our product development but as said, we are focusing on offering even better products to our customers in the future.
Mendor has just signed a distribution agreement with Merck Serono, covering the United Kingdom diabetes market. ASweetLife hopes to see it on the U.S. market sometime soon. The company guesses they’ll have U.S. FDA approval in 2013.
*Disclosure: I received a complimentary Mendor Discreet from the company. They did not ask me to write this review, and I was not compensated for writing it.
Karmel Allison contributed to this article.
Michael Aviad is ASweetLife’s co-founder. He writes the blog Diabetes – It’s an Endurance Sport.
Follow Michael on Twitter @michaelaviad