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OBJECTIVES: To evaluate whether the additional information provided by minimally invasive glucose monitors results in improved glycaemic control in people with poorly controlled insulin-requiring diabetes, and to assess the acceptability and health economic impact of the devices. DESIGN: A four-arm randomised controlled trial was undertaken. SETTING: Participants were recruited from secondary care diabetes clinics in four hospitals in England. PARTICIPANTS: 404 people aged over 18 years with insulin-treated diabetes mellitus (types 1 or 2) for at least 6 months who were receiving two or more injections of insulin daily were eligible. Participants had to have had two glycosylated haemoglobin (HbA1c) values > or = 7.5% in the last 15 months. INTERVENTIONS: Participants were randomised to one of four groups. Two groups received minimally invasive glucose monitoring devices [GlucoWatch Biographer or MiniMed Continuous Glucose Monitoring System (CGMS)]. These groups were compared with an attention control group (standard treatment with nurse feedback sessions at the same frequency as those in the device groups) and a standard control group (reflecting common practice in the clinical management of diabetes in the UK). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Change in HbA1c from baseline to 3, 6, 12 and 18 months was the primary indicator of short- to long-term efficacy in this study. Perceived acceptability of the devices was assessed by use and a self-report questionnaire. A health economic analysis was also performed. RESULTS: At 18 months all groups demonstrated a decline in HbA1c levels from baseline. Mean percentage changes in HbA1c were -1.4 for the GlucoWatch group, -4.2 for the CGMS group, -5.1 for the attention control group and -4.9 for the standard care control group. At 18 months the relative percentage reduction in HbA1c in each of the intervention arms was less than that in the standard care control group. In the intention to treat analysis no significant differences were found between any of the groups at any of the assessment times. There was no evidence that the additional information provided by the devices resulted in any change in the number or nature of treatment recommendations offered by the nurses. The health economics analysis indicated no advantage in the groups who received the devices; a lower cost and higher benefit were found for the attention control arm. Assessment of device use and acceptability indicated a decline in use of both devices, which was most marked in the GlucoWatch group by 18 months (20% still using GlucoWatch versus 57% still using the CGMS). The GlucoWatch group reported more side effects, greater interference with daily activities and more difficulty in using the device than the CGMS group. CONCLUSIONS: Continuous glucose monitors do not lead to improved clinical outcomes and are not cost-effective for improving HbA1c in unselected individuals with poorly controlled insulin-requiring diabetes. On acceptability grounds the data suggest that the GlucoWatch will not be frequently used by individuals with diabetes because of the large number of side effects.

Original publication




Journal article


Health Technol Assess

Publication Date





iii - 194


Adult, Aged, Blood Glucose, Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1, Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2, Female, Glycated Hemoglobin A, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Monitoring, Physiologic, Outcome Assessment, Health Care, Patients, Technology Assessment, Biomedical, United Kingdom