How long are test strips good after you open the bottle?

Posted: March, 2012

If you landed on this page, I suggest you go to the beginning to see what affects the accuracy of test strips. In an effort to know how long after you open a test strip bottle they can be used, I called 6 major manufacturers of Glucose Meters. I asked each of them how long their strips are good, after the bottle is first opened. Assuming your are closing the bottle after each use and storing the bottle per the manufacturers directions, here are the results. All the customer service representatives were very helpful and I had no problem getting my questions answered1.

OneTouch® - Good for 6 months after you first open the bottle or until the expiration date, which ever comes first.

Accu-Chek® - Good to the expiration date on the bottle. The strips have an 18 month life span and it is estimated that once they arrive at the retailer they have 14 to 16 months left.

FreeStyle® - Good until the expiration date on the bottle.

Bayer® - Good until the expiration date on the bottle.

Agamatrix® - Good for 90 days (three months) after you first open the bottle or until the expiration date, which ever comes first.

Nipro Diagnostics®- Good for 120 days (4 months) after you first open the bottle or until the expiration date, which ever comes first.

I find it interesting that Agamatrix®, manufacture of the WaveSense™ technology only last 90 days while the Accu-Chek® last up to 16 months. I find it somewhat odd that Abbott and Bayer do not establish a shorter expiration date based on the first opening the of the bottle while all the other strip manufactures do establish a time restriction. I am told that both Agamatrix® and OneTouch® test strips are available in a 25 count bottle. I like that idea. If I learn of any others who provide a less than 50 count bottle, I will update this article.

If you are unsure who makes your meter, please use the chart below. Be aware that some manufacturers make products for private labeling. Agamatrix® is the provider for many privately marketed products. Their website has a list of where to buy their products, which may be under a different label. A close look at your box of strips should also provide you the actual supplier of the product you are using.

OneTouch® Accu-Chek® FreeStyle® Bayer® Agamatrix® Nipro Diagnostics®
Ultra2® Aviva® Plus Freedom Lite® Contour® WaveSense™
UltraMini® Compact Plus® FreeStyle Lite® Contour® USB WaveSense™ Keynote™ TRUEresults®
UltraSmart® Advantage®     WaveSense™ Keynote Pro TRUEbalance®
  Active®     WaveSense™ Presto™ TRUEread®

Other Factors Which Affect Test Strip Performance.

While it is clearly stated in the product literature the proper environmental conditions that you should, or should not, use your glucose meter, I think it important to cover some of these conditions. I have not found a single test strip that can be used below 32° F. The low 40's seems to be common.
A few years ago we were hunting in November and it reached a low of 9 degrees. I had to keep my meter kit in my sleeping bag at night. If I had left it out and woke up needing to test, I would have been up a frozen creek. On the flip, side a cars interior can easily reach a temperature in the summer that exceeds all strip storage requirements. I don't know what happens to a test strip or meter if the temperatures exceeds established limits, but I don't want to find out. For a hot car I suggest you keep a small cooler in the trunk. A cold water bottle placed inside a small cooler with your meter kit should help keep it within safe limits. I found most recommended low temps in the 40's so don't throw in a bunch of ice.
After writing this article I am going to find a small thermometer to keep inside my kit if I have any concerns about the temperature. Maybe an electronic model with high/low alarms.

Another issue is altitude. I have seen a statement in some documentation that the product should work fine up to 10,000 feet. For most of us, that is not a problem. I am sure Airline travel is not an issue and it has more to do with oxygen levels. My guess is that a certain level of oxygen is required to ensure a proper glucose reaction. If you are going to be in altitude higher than 10,000 I suggest you talk to your doctor or contact your meter manufacturer for more information.

My Thoughts

While I would love to see more accurate glucose meter technology available, and maybe its coming, I also realize that for type 2 diabetes the meters today do a decent job. I took two readings today after forgetting to take my Metformin in the morning and a Humalog shot at breakfast. Opps! One reading from a Contour® USB was 190. My Freestyle® reported 215. Both meters told me I messed up and I went for a long walk and had a zero carb lunch. When I get up in the morning and one reading is 85 and the other is 100, I am happy either way. I use my meters to calculate insulin shots, but I only take one reading 99% of the time and go with that number. If I tried to over test or worry about the accuracy of my meter I would go nuts. The stress would be worse for me than being a unit or two off on my insulin. If I feel a little Hypoglycemic and the meter says 80, then I am not going do harm to myself if I drink 4 ounces of orange juice or take a couple 4g fast acting glucose tablets.

The real missing piece of information I feel should be available is just how far do the accuracy levels of test strips drop as they reach their expiration or recommended stop date after you open the bottle. Is the drop off liner or expediential. How far off do strips have to reach before they are considered bad? I will keep after this issue and see what I can find, but my guess is these are highly guarded secrets and until an independent study is done addressing these issues, we may never know.

All things considered I do believe that with proper use glucose meters are, for the most part, accurate enough for you to effectively manage your type 2 diabetes.

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1. All phone calls were made to the respective customer service or tech support departments using the phone numbers published on each companies website on the afternoon of April 3, 2012.

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