Holy Crap! 40 lbs. (18 kg) of Glucose on the Cheap

Last year, my employer promised to implement flexible spending accounts and some other benefits (such as an optional dental plan, paid for pre-tax dollars, naturally). The deadline for enrollment was this week. To prepare, I spent a fair amount of time analyzing my various co-pays to doctors, pharmacies, as well as expenses paid for glasses/contact lenses and a host of other out-of-pocket expenses related to diabetes so I could accurately estimate how much of my pre-tax income I should allocate.

Up until this point, my "system" for tracking expenses was pretty much to save any receipts and put them into an old shoebox, which after a year of collecting receipts was surprisingly full. The good news is that I have a very good idea of what I need to set aside, and my savings during 2008 should be quite substantial!

One item I was a bit troubled by was the amount of money I spent on glucose (dextrose) tablets for treating hypos. At $5.95 for a bottle of 50 tablets ($4.95 for a bottle if and when I happen to be near a Wal-Mart -- and since there isn't a single Wal-Mart in any of New York City's 5 boroughs I am aware of, its usually when I venture into the suburbs), but the cost adds up surprisingly fast.

Truth be told, I probably waste a fair amount of these things, as I've removed more than a pocketful of yuck after I've washed pants with a roll of tablets in it, but still, the markup is unbelievable. As I noted in my previous post on glucose tablets back in 2006, "lets face it, making dextrose tablets is not complex drug engineering", so the prices are akin to highway robbery. When I considered what I had spent on those things during 2007, it occurred to me that there had to be a better way.

Last Halloween, I happened to "discover" Smarties in my local store and I bought a few bags meant for trick-or-treaters. Not only were their ingredients pure dextrose (plus the obligatory artificial coloring, citric acid, etc.) and they were surprisingly easy to measure. The basics are as follows: each roll is 6 grams, therefore 2 1/2 rolls = 15 grams of sugar (or, more specifically, 0.4 grams per tablet), plus no one looks at me strangely when I open them or consume them. But the biggest benefit was that the cost was a fraction of the cost that our diabusinesses friends catering to the needs of a largely dependent population sell their competing products for. So, in my planning stage, I decided to seek out a bulk supply for the coming year. As it turns out, the smarties.com website has an online store, and enables customers to buy "cases of bulk" Smarties en masse. I ordered a case of Smarties 15 Tablet Rolls, which the website says contains approx. 2,400 rolls per case. The cost was $50, plus shipping. That equates to about what I would spend for about 8 or 9 bottles of glucose tabs in my local pharmacy.

Yesterday, they delivered my order. I must admit, I was expecting a box close in size of my usual mail-order shipment of test strips from Medco Health. I was therefore a bit surprised by how big a bulk order of these things actually is!

I received a good sized box (about 3 times the size of my test strip orders) which weighed 40 lbs. (18 kg)! Now, on a per-gram basis, we're talking about pennies vs. dollars here, so it was indeed a very good bargain. But it looks like I'm covered for hypo treatments for a quite a while. Perhaps the only place I'll still keep the regular tablets will be the glove compartment of my car, as the last place I want to be unwrapping rolls of Smarties is while I'm behind the wheel, but all things considered, I will be switching to these smaller-sized tablets which retail (and bulk) are far cheaper. If anyone is looking to slash their miscellaneous diabetes expenses for the coming year, consider ordering a case of Smarties -- now I know why they call these things Smarties, but I cannot help but wonder if that means when I bought glucose tabs if I was a dummy?

Views: 2160

Comment by Toni Crebbin on February 22, 2008 at 6:02pm
That is hilarious! Thanks for doing all the cost expenditure calculations for me. Now can you do me one more favor and tell me how many smarties = 3 glucose tabs???
Comment by Steve R on March 7, 2008 at 5:30pm
Thanks, Scott. The cost of glucose adds up quickly for me,too. I've been using the $4.89 Walmart tabs, and the cost adds quickly. Smarties sound like a good way to go.
Comment by halfnelson on March 11, 2008 at 6:49pm
I use M&Ms. Glucose tabs are a rip off, although I admit I keep tubes of them in various key places for emergencies.
Comment by Justin Stancil on August 19, 2008 at 2:38pm
That is absolutely genius!
Comment by Kristin on August 19, 2008 at 3:35pm
Yes-- after reading this post, I bought a ton of Smarties and I put my 5 year old sister to work unwrapping them into my old glucose tab containers :) She loved it! I find that they taste a lot better than glucose tabs as well (or just less chalky??). So they are doing something right with the dextrose or the "other" stuff!
Comment by Craig on August 25, 2008 at 1:04pm
One roll of Smarties is 25 calories. A glucose tab, if I remember correctly, is 15 calories. So, a in a hypothetical hypoglycemia in which your blood sugar is 50 mg/dl, if you would normally treat with 6 1/2 glucose tabs (=105 cal), you could substitute 4 rols of Smarties (100 cal.).

One problem is that if my blood sugar is low enough, or say it is the middle of the night, I can loose track of the number of tabs I've eaten. Particularly at night it is important not to overdo it in seeking relief, or you'll wake in the morning feeling awful with hyperglycemia. To prevent this, I think I'll try the smarties unwrapped, but place them in allotments of 100 calories in small containers (I've got a lot of the little baby food plastic containers which are perfectly sized), but you could use old glucose tubes (I don't know if Kristin is using the small tubes or the larger containers for hers).
Comment by Kelsie on August 25, 2008 at 2:26pm
Hey, that's a good idea! Especially since I think glucose tablets are gross (except for the tropical flavors).

About the M&Ms, do those work as fast for you as glucose tablets?

I know what I'm buying next time I go to Costco...
Comment by CHARLIE WYATT on December 25, 2008 at 1:37pm
THANK YOU FOR YOUR WONDERFUL IDEA. MAY I RECOMMEND THE BOOK "ENTER THE ZONE" BY PHD BARRY SEARS. WE HAVE ACHIEVED UNBELIEVABLE SUCCESS BY SHIFTING THE PROTEIN RATIO TO 2/1/4--FOR PROTEIN/CARB/FAT RESPECTIVELY (DUE TO DIMINISHED PANCREATIC FUNCTION) AT EVERY MEAL, MANEUVERING ONLY WITH DIET AND USING 24 HOUR LANTUS FOR NIGHT AND THE SAME, WITH THREE CRISSCROSSING DOSAGES OF N FOR THE DAYTIME PLATEAU. OUR DOCTOR SAYS, "NOBODY DOES IT THAT WAY, BUT NOBODY GETS NUMBERS THAT GOOD." ANYTIME THE "EXPERTS" DISMISS THIS, ASK THEM WHAT THEIR BEST PATIENT'S HbA1C is, as well as their numbers. Remember Cuba Gooding, "SHOW ME THE [numbers] JERRY". NEVER esteem convenience more than HbA1C and stability. When the associated bill for poor HbA1C comes due and payable, it is NEVER worth the convenience that led to it.

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