History of Blood Glucose Meters: “Meter Memories” – Transcripts – Part IV

by Rick Mendosa

That brought it into the patient arena for the first time? LifeScan certainly helped. In the meantime at Ames Company at the time I left, which was in the mid-70s, it was just starting to grab hold. The Boehringer visual strip helped it a great deal, because you could teach patients to read the strip visually without an instrument and there were some people who thought that was advantageous. And so a lot of early glucose testers were testing visually. Dr. Lois Jovanovic, she’s out in Santa Barbara at Sansum, but she was at New York Hospital, Cornell University, back in those days, which were the mid-70s, and she had a group of pregnant diabetic women and she managed them through their period of pregnancy and amazing success. She had a concept that women had to use blood glucose meters and strips until they could prove that they were proficient reading them visually. And she called it “freedom from the instrument.” Because they felt it was easier. Remember that the instruments were not small. They were fairly sizeable things. Even LifeScan’s first one was no miniature. She had a lot of success with the visual meters.

One of the things that really turned this upside down was a very successful symposium paid for by Boehringer Mannheim. Boehringer Mannheim paid for and supported an international symposium on blood glucose management called “Diabetes in the 80s.” It was held at Rockefeller University in New York and it was chaired by Charles Peterson, Lois Jovanovic’s husband. Chuck Peterson chaired it and there was an international array of speakers talking about where the future of diabetes is going in the next 10 years and as a part of that discussion was the discussion of patient self-monitoring. And that kicked it off, gave it real impetus as far as professional support.

Did you have anything to do with getting that symposium going? It was my idea. I searched out Chuck Peterson and asked him to chair it and he selected Rockefeller University. At that time he had ties to Rockefeller. He and I put together the program and the speaker list. We brought several diabetes specialists in from England and we brought some in from Japan and Canada as well.

And then the president of Boehringer Mannheim U.S. at the time was a fellow by the name of Bill Coll. He’s down in Florida somewhere now. He in his position as president had the foresight to know that this market was going to really grow and he shared with me the enthusiasm for the potential of this market. In any case, he now only approved the underwriting of the symposium in New York, he actually arranged, he said that he didn’t want to hold this big worldwide symposium and have nobody show up, so he said that we will have every ADA affiliate in the United States. The American Diabetes Association sent two doctors at our expense from every state in the union, one hundred of them, paid all their expenses for this 2-day symposium. Surprisingly, especially in New York, the doctors turned out in large numbers.

What year was that? It was 77-78. That’s a published hardbound textbook, by the way, edited by Charles Peterson.

Have you written anything about this? No I haven’t. But Dick Bernstein called me several weeks ago and called and said that one of his patients said maybe we should write this down and Dick said that I was the one who should write it. But it’s never come to be.

The groundswell then was starting. All of these basic instruments were designed for physician office use. And then suddenly in the mid-70s the idea of patient testing starts to grow dramatically. And that has an effect on the later design of instruments. Ames’ third generation instrument was the Glucometer and that was really designed; now it was small and compact and more patient oriented. They had the first patient meter.

Boehringer, it took them 6 years to develop a meter to read the Chemstrip bG. That didn’t come out until the late 70s. That was the original Accu-Chek.

Glucometer became generic like Kleenex. The Glucometer was also from Kyoto Daiichi.

When was that introduced? I am going to guess. I would say that was about 75.

And then the next one, and by now I had left Ames, and they had several iterations after that, but they went back to their own instrument. In other words, they had two from the Japanese back to back from Kyoto Daiichi, and then they went back to their own design people. I think they called it the Glucometer II.

What about you? Your retired when? Last year, 1998. After about 33 years in the diabetes industry. I joined Ames in 1966 and left in 1973…. I left Ames Company in 76 and went to Boehringer. I was at Boehringer Mannheim for 10 years. I left Boehringer Mannheim, and went up to Boston, where I worked with MediSense.

MediSense introduced the first meter that used an entirely different principal. Up until MediSense they all read reflected light. MediSense introduced the first biosensor. That operates on a whole different principal. Very exquisite. And it’s been duplicated by every other company.

Is that electro-chemical? Yes, that is the electro-chemical technology.

I was hired by the Boehringer company to put them in the diabetes business. They weren’t in that business when I joined them. And then 7 years later it was $100 million. I mention that because I then left Boehringer and went to MediSense. MediSense wasn’t in any business before. And in 3 years we reached $100 million. That was a sleighride the likes of which… It was very exciting. Absolutely superior technology.

What was your career? I was definitely in marketing. A marketing executive.

I didn’t catch the first meter with a digital readout? That was the one that LifeScan introduced, I believe the one from England was a digital readout. Before that there was the analog with the sweep of a needle and a scale. Whether it was analog or digital was merely a consumer kind of thing. It had nothing to do with the accuracy. Digital is not better than analog. The A.R.M. in 1970 was the first that could give you a numerical readout. The official name is reflectance photometry.

Those are the two technologies today, reflectance photometry and biosensor or electro-chemical? Yes. And the biosensor approach interesting has been developed by what remains of Ames Company [now Bayer] and LifeScan has a biosensing type.

I understand that Dr. Bernstein uses only the Elite because that is the only one that is accurate. That is such an appropriate description of Dr. Bernstein. He is my dear friend. And we have been friends for years. And I give him this much. Right or wrong when he makes an evaluation of an instrument or system he sticks by it no matter what. They are all about the same.

I left MediSense and started my own consulting business about 92. I did that for a couple of years and that’s how I got hooked in to PTS [Polymer Technology Systems]. I worked there fulltime for a couple of years and then I retired.