"One test strip for me, one for the greater good..."
That's the give-back model of a very new small business that's selling a glucose meter and affordable, high-quality test strips while also providing a diabetes supply package with strips for a full year to someone in need for every dozen paying customers. It's known as Good Glucos (yep, no E on the end there) and was founded just over a year ago by Canadian Elliot Gatt, who was diagnosed with type 1 as a teenager.
Their offering appears to be the first of its kind in the diabetes space in the U.S. and Canada. It's a simple idea that seems to be working pretty well, in the early months following its launch in January 2017.
We think Good Glucos fits perfectly into our Small But Mighty series here at the 'Mine, showcasing small businesses created by and for people with diabetes, to help the D-Community in some unique way. We've been fascinated with Good Glucos since first hearing about it early in the year, and are happy to share their story today.
Good Glucos: The Basics
Drawing from two companies he's admired -- Toms Shoes and the Dollar Shave Club, which have business models of one-for-one giving and subscription service, respectively -- founder Elliot Gatt tried to envision what he could do on the diabetes glucose monitoring front with those philosophies in mind. He joined with some friends to create a hybrid model for test strips, in which customers would not only be able to buy their own affordable strips, but in doing so they'd also be donating strips to someone in need.
- Who Manufactures the Products? Not surprisingly, Good Glucos doesn't manufacture the glucometer or strips themselves, but licenses them (to sell under the Glood Glucos brand name). The product is actually the On Call Vivid meter made by ACON Labs in California, which received Health Canada clearance and FDA clearance back in 2012.
- Meter and Strip Specifics: The On Call Meter is based on the now-discontinued OneTouch Ultra meter from years ago, with all the basic features you'd expect in a meter these days -- large display with big numbers, screen backlight + strip port light (!), USB cable for downloading, results in five seconds, averages ranging from a week to three months, a small sample size of .8 uL of blood, alarms for high and low BGs, reminder alerts and meal tags, and even re-testing capability within 3 seconds. It uses round watch batteries for power.
- Monthly Subscription: A monthly subscription provides as many test strips as you might need, depending on your monthly use, and Good Glucos describes the cost as being roughly 40-50% less than the typical, brand-name strips on the market. Users receive a starter kit with free shipping, that includes: the meter, lancing device with 10 lancets, a carrying case, USB cable for downloading results, control solution and product manual. Users indicate how many strips they need per month and how often they should be shipped out, and pricing is based on quantity (i.e. 100 strips per month is $35, compared to 300 strips costing $105 per month). This is a non-insurance process without any need for a prescription, though you might be able to use an insurance reimbursement or flex spending card if that applies. You can also suspend or cancel your subscription at any point.
- Cost Savings: According to Good Glucose, at 100 strips per-month, you could be saving up to $540 monthly (!) compared to competitive strips. We did a quick run-through of national pharmacy prices on name-brand strips like OneTouch and Accu-Chek, and the math does pretty much add up.
- Accuracy: Good Glucos offers data showing it meets the internationally accepted ISO standards that the most recent FDA guidance is based on. That means the results are within +/- 15% of actual lab values. So yes, as accurate if not a bit more than some of the name-brand meters and strips out there now. (In case you're curious about test strip accuracy comparisons, check out this new study by the Diabetes Technology Society).
- Giving Model: This is a 12-for-12 model, meaning that for every 12 subscribers the company gets, it gives away a 12-month subscription for someone who can't afford test strips. While it's mostly US and Canada focused right now, Good Glucos says it's been able to expand into other countries internationally since it doesn't go through Rx or insurance. One PWD in Morocco signed up and received a one-year supply, and Good Glucos says it's just partnered with New York-based Marjorie's Fund that will be taking the supplies on relief trips to Uganda. Most recently, they're doing a giveaway in Peru where a documentary on diabetes will be filmed.
It's tough to argue with slogans like "Test Strips For All" and "Giving Back for a Greater Good," no?
Of course the idea of "giving back" isn't totally novel, and other glucose meter and diabetes services companies have started embracing it more publicly these days, such as Livongo Health's new charitable donation program. But what Good Glucos does is unique, actually weaving the giving into its business model rather than just creating a side campaign or initiative.
The man behind all of this is thirty-something Elliot, who lives in Canada and was diagnosed with T1D at age 17 back in 2000. His diagnosis came just following a summer camp experience, where he remembers guzzling two liters of water every day. He had a slight cold, went to the doctor and... lo an behold, a week later got an emergency call from a nurse alerting him to a glucose reading of 18.9 mmol (about 340 in mg/dL). Following a hospital stay for a week, Elliot began his new life with T1D.
He graduated from college in the mid-2000s, and has been working in marketing and business administration background over the past decade. He's also spent a lot of time volunteering for the Canadian Diabetes Association and other specific efforts, such as Hurricane Sandy cleanup in New York in 2013.
His parents were both artists and Elliot jokes that the "starving artist" stereotype isn't far off from reality. They had no insurance, but still had to pay for test strips and everything else needed for D-life. Over the years, he'd always wondered why technology and test strips weren't more affordable, and easier for patients to get their hands on. Meanwhile, his mother was recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, so he saw yet another perspective on the struggles people face.
All of that led him to the creation of Good Glucos, especially given the rise of the diabetes financial crisis over the past several years, often forcing people to choose between diabetes supplies and groceries.
"We set out to change that," says Justin Zsiros, Elliot's longtime friend and head of operations at Good Glucos. "But first we needed to find out if we could, so we did a lot of research to investigate whether our goal was even financially feasible -- making test strips available to all who need them by reducing their cost and providing them for free to someone in need. Ultimately, our goal is to impact the community in a larger way than simply reducing the cost of test strips. But at least that's where we're starting."
Giving Back, Beyond the Business
Beyond the business, Elliot is certainly becoming a more visible part of our community in other ways, too.
This summer he's taking part in the amazing Bike Beyond adventure organized by the California non-profit Beyond Type 1. We reported on this previously while featuring one of the riders back in April, and we're hearing great things about this cross-country bike ride now en route -- about two dozen people riding across 15 states, starting in California in early June and ending up in New York City in August. And yes, each rider does every single state (it's not a relay where they switch out).
It probably doesn't hurt that Elliot has completed a marathon in Iceland, an ultra-marathon in the Grand Canyon, and a mountain region triathlon in Ontario. So hey, biking across America is just another bucket list item for him, probably! :)
You can check out his journal on the Bike Beyond page, and once that's finished we expect to see him get back into the weeds of managing his growing business.
We're huge fans of what Elliot and his Good Glucos team are doing here, and think it's a model for more in the Diabetes Industry (especially the bigger players, who have more resources and backing).
Kudos to Good Glucos, for thinking beyond their own bottom line and working to do good!