In a landmark study, UNC School of Medicine researchers have shown that blood glucose testing does not offer a significant advantage in blood sugar control or quality of life for type 2 diabetes patients who are not treated with insulin. The paper details findings from a randomized trial called “The MONITOR Trial.” This study is the first large pragmatic study examining glucose monitoring in the United States.
Type 2 diabetes is an epidemic afflicting one in 11 people in the United States. For those treated with insulin, checking blood sugar with a finger stick at home is an accepted practice for monitoring the effects of insulin therapy. However, the majority of type 2 diabetes patients are not treated with insulin. These patients, too, are often recommended glucose monitoring, despite an ongoing debate about its effectiveness in controlling diabetes or improving how patients feel.
“Our study results have the potential to transform current clinical practice for patients and their providers by placing a spotlight on the perennial question, ‘to test or not to test?’” said Katrina Donahue, MD, MPH, senior author of the study and Professor and Director of Research at UNC Family Medicine.
During the study, 450 patients were assigned to one of three groups: no blood sugar monitoring, once daily glucose monitoring, or enhanced once-daily glucose monitoring with an internet-delivered tailored message of encouragement or instruction.
The trial lasted one year. By the end:
- There were no significant differences in blood glucose control across the three groups.
- There were no significant differences found in health-related quality of life.
- There were no notable differences in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), hospitalizations, emergency room visits. Between programs, there was also no difference in the number of individuals who had to start using insulin treatment to better control blood sugar levels.
“Of course, patients and providers have to consider each unique situation as they determine whether home blood glucose monitoring is appropriate,” Donahue said. “But the study’s null results suggest that self-monitoring of blood glucose in non-insulin treated type 2 diabetes has limited utility. For the majority, the costs may outweigh the benefits.”