Q) What looks like a USB stick but has a bright color screen, wirelessly communicates with Medtronic insulin pumps, and is more accurate than your average glucometer?

A) It's a brand new meter called the Contour Next Link, co-developed by Medtronic and Bayer and announced on Tuesday through a news release sent to some Diabetes Online Community members and via Medtronic's blog, The Loop. We reached out to PR directors at both companies to learn more about this new meter.

Until now, this meter has not been commercially available anywhere in the world, but only been seen in some clinical trials, according to spokes-folks Amanda Sheldon of Medtronic and Susan Yarin of Bayer Diabetes. The companies are now marketing it jointly.

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This device will become the recommended meter for anyone using Medtronic pumps, as it will be sent to all new customers  in the U.S.

Basically, this new meter combines aspects of the already-existing Contour Next EZ meter that was FDA-approved in April, the previous Contour Link meter, and the non-linking Contour USB. Unique features of this new meter, as spelled out in the news release emailed to bloggers:

  • Meter results are transferred immediately to your pump, so you can use the data for fast and easy bolus dosing and CGM calibration
  • The USB port plugs into your computer for easy downloading to Medtronic's convenient online CareLINK software (no more need for the separate CareLINK USB device)
  • Like most modern meters these days, it requires no coding of test strips
  • Easy-to-read display with large, bright, clear numbers
  • Fast 5-second countdown and small 0.6 μL blood sample
  • Optional pre- and post-meal markers with alarm reminders

This meter is the result of a global partnership between the two companies, which kicked off in 2007 and includes more than 20 countries but has only begun in the United States recently. In May 2011, they announced an expansion of that alliance to include the U.S. market with the first updated Contour linking meter.

Until then, Medtronic had partnered with J&J Lifescan using their OneTouch technology in the U.S. for meters that linked to Medtronic pumps. Medtronic's Sheldon says the switch to Bayer is a business decision based on the companies' aligned goals in working toward improved accuracy and simplicity in next-generation D-devices.

The new Contour Next Link meter uses new technology that's accurate within 15% for BG readings 100 mg/dL or higher, and within 15 points for anything lower than 100 mg/dL at least 95% of the time. This according to Yarin at Bayer, who points to research presented at the American Diabetes Association's Scientific Sessions in June showing this accuracy research.

To achieve the tighter accuracy, the new meter uses specially designed Next Test strips that "notably exceed" the current FDA accuracy requirements, which is within ~20% for anything above 75 mg/dL and within 15 mg/dL for anything lower.

Starting in January, Medtronic will begin contacting current customers to offer them a chance to upgrade to the new Contour Next Link meter for free, phasing out past linking meters like the OneTouch UltraLink that will no longer be manufactured or supplied.

The offered "upgrade" does not include any test strips to get started, though. That's where PWDs will have to spend their own money.

A call to my insurance company today shows that they do generally cover Contour strips, but these brand new Contour Next strips are not yet included in coverage lists. We have to assume that is coming soon, though.

Some quick online retail price checks at local pharmacies I use in the Indy area show that the Contour Next strips appear to be less expensive than the regular OneTouch Ultra strips — $19.97 for 25 strips by Contour compared to $27.95 for the OneTouch.

Um, yeah. While insurance coverage may say differently, at least the retail cost puts a check in the Bayer box!

For the Medtronic market, this is huge.  Sheldon notes that internal company research has shown a "vast majority" of customers prefer using the linking meter, though she didn't have data readily accessible and the company isn't in the practice of disclosing its customer statistics, e.g. number of pumpers.

So, what happens to those PWDs who, like me, stock up on blood test strips in advance? Medtronic won't exchange meters or test strips, but pharmacies and distributors may be able to work with individuals to exchange supplies — that's something that has to be worked out individually, we're told.

Hmmm.

When I first heard rumors of the Next Link back in June, I was worried. Mostly because I don't like being forced to switch anything in my diabetes management; I've been a longtime OneTouch and Medtronic user, and the wireless linking is one big reason I have chosen to stay with what I have. What the initial Contour Link offered wasn't appealing to me.

But it turns out this announcement isn't forcing an immediate change. I still have the wireless linking, and I can continue using what I am comfortable with, at least for a while. And when I eventually do need to switch, this new meter offers an attractive mix of benefits that I didn't have before: improved accuracy, possibly lower cost, the bite-sized design, USB compatibility and wireless communication with my existing pump, plus the color display that lights up...

I could very well be sold on the new Contour Next Link as soon as I run through my supply of strips already purchased!

(Now I'm looking forward to the chance to do a side-by-side comparison of both linking meters and see which one, in real life, comes out on top.)

Disclaimer: Content created by the Diabetes Mine team. For more details click here.

This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.