Now you see me, now you don’t, diabetes


There’s a strange phenomena that comes with living with diabetes. Perhaps the same as living with any illness or condition that slowly, gradually, over time, progresses. So slowly we don’t see it progressing; I certainly don’t feel it progressing.

It progresses whether we take care of it or not. In the background, slowly during the ordinary days when I get up, work at my computer, meet friends for lunch, walk through the city, laugh through dinner out with my husband.   

If I look back I know exactly when my ophthalmologist told me she saw the first sign of an eye problem – a slow growing cataract when I was 52. The first sign, after 34 years of being so relieved I had no eye problems, now I did.

I remember exactly when I got my first, of the two I’ve had, frozen shoulder. It was the day I got off the plane after living in Tokyo for six years. Day after day my shoulder became more limited in its movement and more painful. 

For a year I went from my endo to my family doctor to an occupational therapist, even a chiropractor while I was visiting friends in San Francisco. But it wasn’t until my mother told me to go to her chiropractor when I came home that my shoulder was properly diagnosed and treated. My second frozen shoulder 15 years later needed an operation. When I asked if this could recur, my ace surgeon said, “Maybe, in about fifteen years.”

I consider myself lucky that after 40 years of living with type 1 diabetes I have relatively little to show for it. Yet, when I sat in the doctor’s office four years ago and was lucky enough to hear I had a significant hearing loss I could only cry and think diabetes. 

When I notice my calves cramping more than usual, as I have the past few weeks, I can only think neuropathy. And while I notice for the first time an odd pulsing in my forearm, like a string being pulled on my nerves, and it subsides, but never really goes away, I think, diabetes? 

Now you see me, now you don’t, diabetes. You are there and not there. I can forget you, but never as long as for a day. While I believe I’m better off to work hard at keeping my diabetes in control and complications at bay, I also know, I cannot control anything, least of all whether complications will creep in in the mist of day, while I’m trying so hard, or during the dark of night, while I’m hoping only to wake up in the morning.  

The first meter that works with your iPhone, iBGStar



Two weeks ago I was invited, along with a handful of diabetes bloggers and advocates to Sanofi’s (third largest global pharmaceutical) corporate office in New Jersey on the eve of their launch of iBGStar. They secured FDA approval December of last year.

If you haven’t heard of iBGStar, it’s a new blood glucose meter that plugs into an iPhone or iPod touch. Using the iBGStar Diabetes Manager App it’s the first meter to work as a mobile health device. Shawna Gvazdauskas, VP and Head of Diabetes Devices, for Sanofi U.S. brought us together along with 7 members of her team to see the iBGStar up close and personal.

With the iBGStar (I is for  iPhone, BG blood glucose and Star their new line of devices) and its App, patients can record, track, manage and share their data, anytime, anywhere. The premise being that you always have your phone with you. I don’t, but I seem to be a minority of one.

The iBGStar captures blood glucose readings, records carbs and insulin doses, tags readings according to mealtimes and allows you to add customized notes about each meal or exercise. You can analyse the data using a logbook, trend chart and statistics. Color-coded screens indicate if blood glucose is too high or too low. You can of course show your doctor your handy, dandy phone, now turned into a mobile health device and/or email your results.

So, is this just moving furniture on the Titanic, or a real advancement for helping patients better manage their blood sugar? It all depends on you. But Sanofi’s intent, we heard, was to offer a device that “meets patients where they live and changes their experience of managing diabetes.” 

The meter can be used on its own, without the iPhone or iPod touch. It is the width of an iPhone as you can see and less than 1 inch tall, light as a feather, has a 6 second countdown, uses 0.5 microliter blood size, one of the smallest amounts, and meets accuracy requirements.  There’s no coding although that I would expect these days.

As a Sanofi rep said, “The hope for patients is maybe they will get more engaged with their numbers during idle time in the day. For doctors, a patient have their logs with them when they arrive at their appointment.”

Naturally, we all got to play with this nifty little device and walk away with one and 10 strips to see what we think. The only thing that bothered me was it consistently gives me a reading 20 plus points higher than the meter I’ve been using, the Bayer Contour. The thing is I don’t know which is more correct, and you should know, if you don’t, that meters are allowed to be 20% inaccurate. When I asked the question how does one know if the numbers you’re seeing are accurate, the response I got from a gentleman on the marketing team is it’s best to use one meter and get used to how it’s judging your blood sugar. That’s probably the right answer but less than satisfying.

If you’re wondering what these little meters cost and where you can get one, they’re available at Apple and Walgreens retail stores and online at Apple’s online store and Apple charges $99.95 for the device along with 50 strips and Walgreens $74.95 with 10 strips. 

Sanofi offers a copay assistance card so strips will not cost more than $20/order. Sanofi also plans to integrate their GoMeals app with the iBGStar Diabetes Manager App.

It will certainly be interesting to see what other “Star” devices are in the pipeline.


Sanofi’s Shawna Gvazdauskas, Brian Dolan of mobile health news, me, Emily Coles, Laura Kolodjeski, Sanofi Senior Manager, Patient solutions, Allison Blass of DiabetesMine, Kim Vlasnik of Texting My, Kerri Sparling of, Adam Brown and Kelly Close of Close Concerns. Blogger Leighann Calentine of D-Mom and analyst David Kliff of Diabetic Investor attended the meeting but had to leave before the photo was taken.