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Reusable Lancets for Glucose Testing

Diabetes Rates Have Doubled Worldwide

Diabetes is becoming a global crisis. According to One Drop:

“Diabetes rates have doubled from 1980 to 2018, rising from 5% to 10% of the global population. Of those 500M people worldwide living with diabetes today, the prevalence has specifically increased in low- and middle-income countries. … In the current healthcare climate, nearly 4 billion people lack access to medical care. In the United States alone, more than 10% of the population lives without health insurance.”

The Guidelines are Profit Driven

The rise in worldwide cases of diabetes is creating a multi-billion dollar industry for healthcare product manufacturers and suppliers. It’s no surprise that the patient self-care guidelines and recommendations seem to be influenced by what will produce the greatest profits for the multi-billion-dollar diabetes industrial complex.

The Cost of Lancets

Some diabetic supplies, when purchased in bulk have a very low cost per use. For example, a box of 300 lancets can be purchased for $10. [View] If you use one per day, that’s almost a 1-year supply. Not many people are going to think much about something that costs them 3-cents per use. However, when you consider that 30 million diabetics in the U.S. will each need a few hundred lancets per year, that means lancets are a potential $300 million per year business. World-wide with almost 500 million diabetics, that’s $5 billion in global revenue. Those 3-cent items can add up.

Environmental Impact and Safety

If the world’s 500 million diabetics follow the recommendation to use a new lancet every day, there would be 182 billion lancets being thrown away annually, resulting in massive amounts of dangerous medical waste. With that much medical waste, there’s an increase in the chances of someone getting poked by a dirty needle while handling trash. While medical waste should be disposed of properly, it’s likely that much of the medical waste used by diabetics will end up in rivers and oceans.

It could be argued that using a new toothbrush every day could have oral hygiene benefits by avoiding reintroducing germs into the mouse from a dirty brush, but because of the cost and waste created we don’t change our toothbrushes frequently.

Accidental Lancet Injury

Regarding medical waste, such as an abundance of used lancets, OSHA warns:

“Bloodborne pathogens are infectious microorganisms in human blood that can cause disease in humans. These pathogens include, but are not limited to, hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Needlesticks and other sharps-related injuries may expose workers to bloodborne pathogens.”

If the lancet is dirty from being in the trash, and it pokes someone deeply in their hand (deeper than the typical use of a lancet) and then remains stuck in their hand or tears the skin, an infection could result. Discarded medical waste is a concern because we may not know who had used it.

If you get stuck by someone’s used lancet, there would be concern if the person had one of the diseases described above. However, with lancet use, the fine pin is poked just below the surface of the skin and immediately removed by a spring loaded delivery device. Moments later, a drop of blood emerges, usually with some force applied to the finger. So, if the person is free of disease, and used the lancet in sterile conditions, the chances of there being some dangerous pathogen or contagion is not likely. For this reason, if someone accidentally uses another person’s lancet, and it is sterile, it’s unlikely any harm would result. But always consult your physician if you have any questions or concerns.

Millions of Diabetics are Reusing Lancets

A survey conducted by One Drop revealed that 60% of diabetics do not use a new lancet every day. That’s 300 million people using their lancets multiple times. Over 20 percent only change a few times a year or never. That’s 100 million people reusing the same lancet for many months. If there was a potential health problem with reusing lancets, some of those 100 million people would be experiencing problems.

As a test, I tried using the same lancet about 5,000 times over a period of about 5 years (a few times per day). There were no adverse outcomes. So, you’ll forgive me if I don’t believe the lancet barons and profiteers who tell us we need to use a fresh lancet with every blood test. More important than the money I saved is the fact that 5,000 lancets were not thrown in the trash. I wouldn’t recommend going 5 years between lancet changes, but it seems that we don’t need to be throwing away so many medical supplies. I recently changed to a fresh lancet. I do notice that using a fresh lancet provides a better drop of blood and is less painful. Each person needs to consult with their own healthcare provider and make their own decision about what works best for them.

Survey Results

The following table shows the results of surveys conducted by two leading diabetes organizations: One Drop and MyGlu. In each survey a large group of participants were asked how often they change their lancet.

One DropMyGlu.org
A Few Times Per Year18%36.7%

CDC Advisory Regarding Lancet Use

In a Q&A informational document, the CDC answers the following question:

Q: Residents at our assisted living facility do their own blood glucose monitoring and prefer to use the reusable fingerstick devices. Is this acceptable?

Here is an excerpt of the answer provided by the CDC:

Reusable fingerstick devices are appropriate for individuals who perform all steps of testing themselves.

Why Are There No Reusable Lancets?

You’ll occasionally see mention of reusable lancets or fingerstick devices, like in the advisory above from the CDC, yet they don’t seem to exist in stores. If millions of people around the world are already using what essentially are multi-use lancets (reusing their own lancets), fwhy aren’t such products sold in stores, made to be more durable, and designed to be sanitized?

Reusable lancets would save money for patients and would reduce medical waste that could harm others and the environment. If patients were reassured that some reuse of lancets is okay, it would be one less supply that could run out. Those fearful of lancet reuse are likely to stop testing until they can purchase more supplies. That’s not good.

So, why don’t reusable lancets exist? The answer is simple. If 500 million diabetics spend $10 per year on lancets, that is a $5 billion industry. That’s a lot of money. Those who are making profits from that industry are likely to exert sustained pressure and influence to ensure that lancets become a daily disposable consumable product.

A report published by Healio states: “Some legally marketed finger-stick devices have been cleared for use on more than one patient.” So, not only are there multi-use lancets, some devices are approved for more than one patient. One presumes this is the lancet tool and not the lancet itself, but with proper sanitizing perhaps lancets could be reused in the same way surgery and dental tools are used with multiple patients.

Expensive Consumables

One of the more expensive consumables used by diabetics are glucose test strips. If you’ve ever checked out pricing on these, you’ll find they can range from $1.50 to $2 per strip for the name brand supplies. For example, Walgreens has a box of 50 strips for $100. [View] At $2 per day (a conservative estimate), with 500 million diabetics, the sale of glucose test strips is a $365 billion industry worldwide annually.

A business generating $365 billion dollars is going to be tightly guarded and protected by those profiting from it. There will be very little incentive to finding a cure for diabetes if the cure would result in a loss of $365 billion per year.

The manufacturers selling test strips for $2 each tell us that they’d love to help diabetics out by charging less, but it’s just not possible to produce the test strips at a lower cost. Yet, companies like CVS are now selling glucose test strips for 20-cents each. [View] This demonstrates that pricing of $2 each is price gouging and bordering on extortion by exploiting sick people with life-threatening conditions who will pay whatever is necessary to follow the guidelines.

Action Points

As a diabetic, there are many things you can do to properly manage your glucose levels at normal safe levels. This includes following a beneficial satisfying nutrition plan, staying active by enjoying regular moderate exercise, and taking medicines suggested by your doctor. With regard to the available medicines, be sure to persist until you find the right combination that produces good results with minimal side-effects. Your doctor can help you in that process. Mayo Clinic offers an interactive online tool to help you find a medicine that might work best for you. [View Interactive Tool]


This document is not intended to diagnose or prescribe any treatment. You should always consult with your physician before making any changes to diet, exercise, or any other aspect of your healthcare program.

By Greg Johnson

Greg Johnson is a freelance writer and tech consultant in Iowa City. He is also the founder and Director of the ResourcesForLife.com website. Learn more at AboutGregJohnson.com

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