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Information about the GlucoWatch Biographer by Cygnus
Latest information: 31 March 2006. Cygnus, who made GlucoWatch Biographer, has closed down, and its assets were bought by Animas (who make insulin pumps). Animas is no longer making GlucoWatch Biographers, and the stock it bought is being sold in America by Diabetic Promotions. The American Federal Drugs Administration reports that at least 50% of users experienced mild or moderate skin irritation.
Photo of a GlucoWatch Biographer
Matthew Cooper tests 3 GlucoWatches simultaneously as part of a medical trial in 2001
[ See photo bigger ]
This new device for measuring glucose has been authorised for use in Britain. The GlucoWatch Biographer does not measure blood glucose directly, but measures slight chemical reactions on the surface of the skin. US manufacturers Cygnus report that it is only being released gradually at selected centres around the UK. It potentially has the ability to help insulin pump users to fine tune their overnight basal rates.
The meter is worn like a wrist watch, and has a sticky pad which keeps the watch in firm contact with the skin. The pad lasts for 12 hours, and the meter gives a reading every 20 minutes. It is reported that the next version of this GlucoWatch, which is already being tested in America, will give readings every 10 minutes.
The meter is not currently available free on prescription. In June 2001, the prices quoted were £350 for the meter, and £50 for a box of 16 testing pads which can only be used once.
For more information, see www.glucowatch.com or ring UK 0800 028 5256.
Comments from a selection of people who have used it:
Neil Deacon <email@example.com> tried the GlucoWatch in May 2001, and he writes:
First thing I noticed was how small it was: it's about the half the size of a credit card.
The main purpose of getting the GlucoWatch was to test my blood glucose readings overnight. It's fine getting up and testing your blood but I feel this does not give a proper overall view of your levels.
What you need to do before monitoring your blood glucose levels:
- First thing is to charge the AAA battery (supplied with the GlucoWatch). This takes 3 hours.
- Then you run a system check which takes 30 seconds. You should get a pass on this test.
- Then you squeeze the AutoSensor in a press for 10 seconds. This makes sure the gel is spread evenly over the sensors.
Once this is completed, you can remove the protective strip and place it on your skin. I tried it on my forearm, but this was in the way at night as I sleep on my arm. I then tried the top of my arm which was much better.
Then you begin the warm up process (3 hours!!!) and then run the calibration (take a blood test with your finger prick meter and enter the result into the GlucoWatch). 30 minutes later it will start monitoring your blood glucose levels.
Overall I was impressed with the GlucoWatch but it does take a long time before you actually get a test result out of the device. But the results are displayed so you can check them every 20 minutes.
I am in the process of sending the Gluco Watch back, as I said it works well but I think I had a reaction to the glue they use.
I felt that the results were dubious in the extreme. Couldn't rely on them better than +/- 2mmol/L (+/- 40 mg/dL). I did do an overnight run (very uncomfortable due to the intense itching you get from it every 5 mins as it does its stuff).
I wouldn't rely on its results to tweak overnight basal rates, which is a shame because adjusting basal profiles is just what you need it for.
The rash came up for me a couple of days later and took up to ten days to heal. Also it skips readings with the slightest disturbance in terms of change in temperature, perspiration and even using mobile phone in the same hand as you are wearing the watch. The warm up period isn't 3 hrs as they say, it's 3hrs then it's ready for calibration which takes a further 20 mins if you get it right first time.
If the MiniMed continous monitor was downloadable during its 3 days to a PC then if you could hire one it would be great for basal rate tweaking.
In July 2001 Chris Cairns <firstname.lastname@example.org> in the US had a more positive experience with the GlucoWatch:
The Glucowatch is being sold in the UK. Fifteen centres in the US are enrolling initial patients, patients who use the watch regularly. Besides the two comments here, where are the reports from people who have used this watch? I would like some confirmation of my own beginning experience with this device. I bought mine in the UK. I do not live there. I am not part of a test or trial. I am involved in a self-test. Skin irritations are non-existent. It skips a reading for perspiration, ie when physically working or active. Otherwise it posts numbers that are completely within the ballpark. It is tracking consistently and within expected parameters (formed by my own knowledge and experience with diabetes). It records numbers all night, every twenty minutes. On a steady night you can scroll back in the morning and see how you glided through the night - 4.6, 5.2, 4.8, 5.7, 5.3, 5.2 etc. Alarm goes off for high or low (which you set yourself; so far mine is 9.0 and 4.4) and makes enough noise to wake you up. This item will be terribly useful to those who are on a pump or other forms of intensive management. Someone else on this board posted that their acquaintance reported that it was a "Godsend". This is my experience. This is a remarkable machine.
Phil Robson's <email@example.com> experiences:
I purchased a GlucoWatch in the UK and have been using it where I live and work, in Thailand, for the last few weeks.
I purchased the Watch for several reasons:
- To get a better idea of overnight BG levels
- To closely monitor post meal readings.
- To wear when travelling (I fly regularly.)
- To monitor effects of exercise / change in insulin regimen / change in diet etc. on BG levels.
Comments on use:
- I do get a red circular rash that lasts up to a week.
- Very sensitive to perspiration - I rarely get a reading walking around a relatively well air conditioned hospital building in Bangkok. Getting a reading outside in the heat and humidity is not possible.
- I get frequent DATA errors 40 mins to 80 minutes after an injection / meal. I wonder if this is due to rapidly fluctuating BG levels causing the problems?
Given that this is new technology, I find the information invaluable to helping me maintain optimised BG control. I look forward to the day when a PC interface is developed to download readings and the day when the instrument can provide information during exercise or when walking around the streets of Bangkok!
Experiences of Donald ODonnell's <Donald7@btinternet.com>, 23 Sep 2001:
I have had the watch for 6 days. The first day I had a nurse come to go through the running of it and I found it not too hard. I did not have a problem using the watch and I was hoping that it would work for me as I had heard that there has been a lot of people that it has not worked for.
Anyway - back to the first day. I thought the watch was working until after a period of 6 hours I remembered there is a warm up period of 3 hours. I started to get SKIP PRSP and the time come up on the watch. This means a perspiration skip. The watch can not function in damp or hot places. (Just a note: I work in a kitchen.) I got 3 readings of the same. In fact the watch did not work for me the first day.
The next time I put the watch on was that night - 3 hours before bed - to see if it would work through the night. I got a few readings in the early part of the night. The night passed and morning arrived. At 6.30am it was time for me to get up for work. I had a look at the watch reading and I did get a good few readings, till I started to get low blood sugars. The watch must have alarmed but I did not hear it and, after a few SKIP PRSP had showed up, it turned off. I could still see all the readings that were on the watch before I started to sweat my way to morning.
I have been getting SKIP readings for a couple of days. I have been on the phone to the company please note a free call everyday. I have found the guys and gals on the other end very kind and helpful.
Today I was at home. No work - just a day at home. TV and a friend around for lunch. How did I get on today with the watch? Well - I got over 23 readings. However, near the end of the afternoon I started to get a reading of CAL. This message is asking me to enter a blood glucose reading from my normal meter and it did this over 5 times. There was something going wrong I think. So I got on the phone to the company and went through the readings that I got all day. They made a note of it and are going to forward them to someone who will know a bit more. I asked the guy how long had he worked there? 2 weeks he told me. So I am prepared to wait for more help.
Also after I took off the watch, (I had the watch on the arm where, as the company had told me) I had little burn like blisters, little red 1/2 inch dots where the AutoSensors pressed to the arm. I had to shave the arm, so the watch could be placed on the skin with no interference from the body hair.
I have been in touch with the GlucoWatch people, and have had long conversations with them about my experiences going through the start of the watch.
Finally I made my mind up, and with GlucoWatch people. That was, because of my life style, it is not practical for me or any other person to use the watch if they work in a kitchen, the watch is too sensitive. Because I spend most of my time at work it is not practical for me. So I have sent it back to them and I will be getting back the cost of the watch £250.00. I was one of the lucky ones, as they do not offer this now to new customers.
They found that some people were using the watch just to get their blood sugar readings over 12 hours, every 20 minute interval, useful if you need a full night's readings. And they were returning the watch before the time had lapsed and they would have to pay the cost out right. In my return letter, I asked them to keep me informed of the improved watches just in case they will work for me.
Created: May 2001; Last updated: Thursday 7 July 2005
Other pages about blood testing
On 2 Apr 2006 Rosaleen Coady wrote:
Just woundering when will this become available in Ireland and has the price come down anything. Mother of two very small children and would love to have something work even when I'm busy, to let me know when I'm low
On 7 Jul 2005 Susan Elliott wrote:
Very interesting to read these comments. I have been thinking about getting a Glucowatch should I become pregnant to achieve the best control possible but also have very sensitive skin so worry about rashes/reactions. I initially thought I could wear the watch 24 hours a day, but this sounds like a very expensive and uncomfortable plan! Perhaps a newer version will be more user friendly and YES we should have them available on prescription - think of all the problems that better control would prevent.
On 13 Aug 2003 Nathan wrote:
The costs are too high, as I cannot work. What about free pads and watch on the NHS!
On 7 Aug 2003 B Heidt wrote:
Our 12 year old daughter received the watch about three weeks ago. We are still working with it to try and figure out the best way to use it. So far the readings are not consistant and after several hours of wearing the watch can be off by as much as 50 mg/dl. However, the pads took one month to arrive and therefore may not be good (they are only supposed to be at room temperature for 30 days and must be used within that time frame). We just received a quality control kit to test them and have not done that yet.
We did find that she needs to wear it on the inside of her arm, where we got much better readings than the outside. Skipped readings due to perspiration would be frequent. We have not yet been able to get "accurate" readings for a long enough period to do any adjusting to basal rates. We are aware that this is new technology and they are still working out the bugs, although I will admit we had higher hopes for its current effectiveness.
We will continue to use it until we figure it out as even if we can get one night of good readings to help us fine tune her basal rates, it will be worth it.
Since she is a child there is not much information yet on possible solutions to her readings.
On 3 May 2003 Chris Hyrne wrote:
I've been using my Glucowatch for 1 month now. I can't tell you how incredibly happy I am with it. It's not difficult to use, there is almost no skin irritation, the amount of data is invaluable. What a great tool. NOTE: I had to purchase it myself as my insurance does not yet cover it....though they tell me they are considering it.
The cost to me is well worth it. I use it about 4 times/week. So 16 autosensors a month = approx $120/month or $1440/year.......really worth it to me.
On 30 March 2003 Richard Wasquell wrote:
I did a lot of research into the Glucowatch before buying it. I read all the negative comments but I have found it to be invaluable. You have to have half a brain to figure out how to use it correctly but for those with less, they do provide technical support. This device is so great, so easy to use, and yet it seems that so many posted reviews of it have been negative. I was almost scared off by them. I'm glad I tried it for myself. I had to pay for the device myself since I have Kaiser and they do not cover it. However, the cost is minor compared to the higher degree of control I now have and the peace of mind that comes with it. For those of you sitting on the fence wondering whether or not to purchase/use it, allow me to give you a little push. Go and make the call. You'll be glad you did. However, make sure you truly understand what it will and won't do before you do so. If you go into it with unrealistic expectations you will, of course, be disappointed.! Good luck.
On 1 February 2003 Jane Coleman wrote:
I am 27, have been a Type 1 diabetic for 7 years, and suffer from eratic blood sugar levels. I am thinking of purchasing a gluco-watch but I am unsure after reading the users' messages. I think I will think about it for a while before doing anything about it.
On 11 January 2003 Graeme Whitworth wrote:
I find some of this information on this page quite valuable as I normally have quite a few hypos during the day or night. I will not be bothered about the irritation on my arms as the results come through. I have just bought the Glucowatch and I will be wearing the watch for the first time tomorrow.
On 8 Dec 2002 Lewis Wilson wrote:
Interesting. I hope one day the watch will help me but I am managing without it at the moment and will wait till some of the problems are ironed out. It would be reassuring to have at night but as my blood sugar is well controlled at the moment. I dont think it would be worth the money, skin irritation or lack of use during exercise. I still find it hopeful as this research will surely lead to a reliable monitor which will change my life. Good luck.
On 13 Sep 2002 Charles Johnson wrote:
Prior to the GlucoWatch... I used to dream of a device similar to a watch (to check blood glucose) because everyone wears watches. It took a long time but thank goodness it finally arrived. Now that it is here we must suffer through skin irritation as a by-product of the process. The price of $711 for the GlucoWatch was a bit pricey. Should you wear the GlucoWatch 24 hours a day the sensors would put you in the "Poor House".
We all know what a problem it is carrying glucometers around with you.
I too suffer from the skin irritation from the sensors. I've used the aloe, hydrocortisone cream with aloe and a prescription cream called Lidex. So far none of these products have provided the relief I had hoped for.
On 19 Aug 2002 Daniel Gliddon wrote:
Most diabetic medication is available on prescription and I see no reason why the sensory pads aren't available as well.
This would, in my opinion, enable a lot more people to get better care for their diabetes particularly if their blood sugars are erratic (as mine seem to be at times!).
This watch would benefit a lot of people and, in principle, I think that it is a good idea and would definitely benefit me. I do, however, feel that £50 each month (or whatever) to get the best diabetic care seems to me to be a bit excessive.
It almost forces us into a no win situation as we cannot help the fact that we are diabetic. With this in mind, is it really fair that we should be purchasing the watch knowing that we have an initial outlay of £350 and then £50 for each box of 16 sensory pads?
Surely the government should be subsidising this to some degree and I have EVERY intention of writing to the MP for diabetes at the House of Lords to put my point of view across.
Many thanks for your time in reading this comment!
All the best!
On 1 Jul 2002 Ashley Jameson wrote:
I found that the Glucowatch is a great tool. While it is not perfect, it does provide me with much more information than I had before. I do get several data skips. I probably average 26 readings per wearing cycle. I have to say I have lowered my HbA1c since wearing by adjusting my basal rates, and I feel comfort wearing it at night. I have woken several times to the alarm, to check my BG and it was low! Worth every bit of itching and rash.
On 21 June 2002 Chris Wright wrote:
Reading thro' previous comments re Glucowatch I have several to add:
The G.W. is not suitable for everyone. I've had one now for over a year. Strenuous activity where there is lots of jolting to the muscles where it is attached is a no-no. (Or sit down & rest until you get a BG reading to shut off the 6 continuous Skip Datas that stop it working)
Siting is important... I avoid the "stringy muscle" bits of my arms as this will interfere with readings.
Having erratic blood sugars (as I have) does present problems, but generally common sense can help overcome the problems this presents in getting a reading.
Yes, BG's vary from my Glucometer, but bathroom scales do vary in their readings!
Lows can be detected in the 3 hour warm up (Useful if you've lost all warning signs)
Skin reactions: Drink at LEAST a litre of WATER (not tea/coffee) a day & they do reduce. Clean the site immediately you remove the watch & apply Aloe Vera gel. Keep skin well moisturised at all times.
The new G.W. has a 2 hour warm up & sensors are now £50 + £5 carriage.
On 30 Jan 2002 a visitor from the United States wrote:
First, I know this is just the first version, just like the first versions of the insulin pump, but we were very fortunate to get one during the trials. His A1c is almost "normal" now due to the feedback we get from the GW. This has allowed us to "tweak" the basals. My son doesn't sweat much so the PERSP hasn't been much of a problem, but this is a great item for improvements, and I'm sure they are working on this.
I wanted to share some "tricks" we use for making sure you don't have any irritation. One way is to just take off the watch and shower or bathe with the sensor. It falls right off if you don't pull on it, and there is no irritation that way. The other is to get some Unisolve pads. They take the sticky part of the sensor right off, and if you just use water after, there is no problem. There is also a cream/lotion called "Fingers" for diabetics that contains Tea Tree oil and it seems to be really great at making sure there is no irritation after the sensor comes off.
I hope this helps.
Also, the second version is going to be amazing. The new NIH trials are very supportive of continuous monitoring. The second version will be used in the trials. It has a shorter warm up, six versus the current 3 read outs per hour and a much better rate of first time calibration.
If you are having trouble calibrating with this version, take a look at your post meal "hi" numbers (post prandial bg excursions...) due to the GW, we started to shoot for lower numbers pre-meal, and we have started to bolus earlier. It has been a big help. Most people have no idea how high they go after meals. This first version of the GW seems to be sensitive to severe rises, and frankly, we need to make sure our kids aren't having these anyway. I guess we never knew before how bad it was because we only tested pre-meal. Take Care.
Editor's note: the GlucoWatch is not currently approved for use on children - either in the US or the UK. This writer's son may have used it as part of a clinical trial.
On 27 Dec 2001 CJ wrote:
I use an insulin pump, and decided to buy a Gluco watch in May 2001, as it sounded invaluable to a pump user. The first time I used the watch, I was guided through by a nurse, and all seemed well ... until it came time to calibrate the machine. It took 4 attempts to calibrate - at 20 minute intervals, and after getting 5 readings after successful calibration, I had a long string of SKIP PRSP messages, after which the watch turned itself off. I too had quite severe reaction to the glue used to secure the sensor to my wrist. I tried it on my forearm - front and back. After phoning the helpdesk, I tried it on my forearm, and then on the back of my lower leg. No good - I had two bright red itchy marks where each sensor had been attached, the worst of which took 3 - 4 weeks to disappear completely.
The final straw with the watch, before I returned it to the manufacturers, was when I had been wearing the watch for 6 hours (the first 3 of which were for calibration). I was feeling ill, and so checked back on the readings in the watch memory ... 7.7 ... 7.9 ... 8.8 ... 6.6 ... 7.7 ... 7.5 etc. When I used my finger prick machine, it was 21.9 ... the watch had given me a reading of 7.5 5 minutes earlier. NO, I didn't have sugar on my fingers!!!!! I do realise there is a lag time between blood sugar levels, and the level measured by the watch, but not 7.5 to 21.9!!!
The whole idea of the watch is excellent, and I'm sure one day it will be perfected, but at the moment, I do not think anyone can use the watch to reliably assess changes in insulin doses... too many uncertainties.
CJ, England, UK
On 29 July 2001 J Brown wrote:
Oh when when when will all this be available in Australia ???????? I have terrible trouble with nocturnal hypos and with my husband doing night shifts one of these monitors would make me feel so much safer. Can anyone help PLEASE thanks so much