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Government implements St. Michael’s research on use of blood glucose test strips

Toronto, February 18, 2014

By Leslie Shepherd

Dr. Tom Schweizer

The provincial government has implemented a new policy driven by research by Tara Gomes and Dr. Muhammad Mamdani to reduce routine self-monitoring of blood glucose levels by many people with Type 2 diabetes and is planning a public education campaign this spring.

Gomes and Dr. Mamdani say the policy change could save the Ontario health care system almost $100 million over the next five years.

Gomes and Dr. Mamdani published a paper in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in 2009 concluding that it was an ineffective use of health resources for people with Type 2 diabetes who do not take insulin to routinely use blood glucose test strips. They found the modest benefits of such monitoring are outweighed by the significant costs of the test strips.

In Ontario, blood glucose test strips were the third largest cost for the Ontario Public Drug Programs in 2007-08, accounting for $100 million or 3.3 per cent of drug expenditures. Usage of test strips increased by almost 250 per cent from 76,320 people in 1997 to 263,513 people in 2008.

“This is an excellent example of knowledge translation,” said Dr. Art Slutsky, vice-president of research. “These are real out-of-pocket savings for the government that do not adversely affect health care or inconvenience patients, and is a great example of the return on investment that research can provide.”

The provincial government restricted funding for the test strips last summer and is developing a public education campaign that includes a video with Dr. Gillian Booth, an endocrinologist at St. Michael’s.

Gomes, a scientist in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute and co-principal investigator of the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network and Dr. Mamdani, director of the Applied Health Research Centre, said other provinces have expressed an interest in their recommendations.

The AHRC is an academic, not-for-profit research centre that specializes in designing and conducting clinical research, including multi-centre clinical trials. It offers start-to-finish assistance to researchers who have an idea for a clinical trial but lack the experience or infrastructure to conduct one – from designing high-quality studies to operationalizing a study and drawing up a budget to providing secure informatics services and data management supporting more than 20 different languages, crunching the numbers and analyzing the results with highly trained statisticians.

The AHRC recently joined with two other St. Michael’s groups to form a clinical research services group known as HUB Health Research Solutions. The other two groups are BreaKThrough Knowledge Translation Services, led by Dr. Sharon Straus, and the Centre for ExceLlence in Economic Analysis Research (CLEAR), led by Dr. Jeffrey Hoch.

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.