Cheaper CGM!

WARNING (February 2021): The situation has changed again. Pharmacy prices for CGM are now sky-high.

At the 2019 Australasian Diabetes Congress (last week) no announcements were made about Dexcom G6. It’s still waiting for approval from the TGA before AMSL will be able to start selling or even marketing it. The strongest story I heard was just “hopefully before the end of 2019”.

But in the last few days some news has come to hand about improved availability of the Dexcom G5 CGM! And not from AMSL (the distributor).

Previously the only official way to purchase G5 sensors and transmitters was through AMSL. The prices can be seen in their online store. Or, if you’re one of the minority of people currently eligible for NDSS CGM subsidy, you get to access them for free (with quantity limits) through your NDSS Access Point (pharmacy).

Use your pharmacy!

Now people have discovered that you can purchase them through your pharmacy without invoking NDSS.

It seems that when someone places an NDSS order for CGM through the pharmacy, the pharmacy “sells” them the product but invoices the cost to NDSS (a “reimbursement” process). If you talk to your pharmacy you can usually order the product and pay the cost yourself. And the cost is usually below the price that AMSL have been charging you!

At pharmacies around Australia, people have been able to order a box of G5 sensors (which AMSL charge $370 for) for prices that vary between $250 and $500. Yes, strangely some pharmacies have wanted $500! In that case just go to a different pharmacy.

The best prices seen so far have been through My Chemist, Chemist Warehouse (who are part of the same chain as My Chemist), and National Pharmacies. Others may have similar prices of course.

I checked out the prices though my local My Chemist, and then extrapolated the overall system cost:

AMSL price Pharmacy price
G5 transmitter
(lasts ~3 months)
$540 $273
Box of 4 sensors
(unit price)
Annual price at warrantied intervals
13 boxes of sensors, 4 transmitters
$6970 $4459
Cost/month $581 $372
Cost/week $134 $86

This is a massive cost saving! Interestingly, this seems close to the “research”/hospital pricing that AMSL used to offer.

Hopefully this will enable more people to access Continuous Glucose Monitoring!
CGM provides so much insight into what our glucose levels do (as well as give us alarms to protect us against hypoglycaemic events) that I regard them as one of the most important technology tools for diabetes.

Talk to your pharmacy

To take advantage of this, don’t try to look up the Dexcom products on your pharmacy’s website. Go into your pharmacy in person, and talk to the pharmacist. Get them to look up the “Dexcom” products on their computer. Even the G4 transmitters will come up as an option, although you’re probably only interested in the G5 Transmitter and the G4/G5 Sensor (which is a box of 4 sensors).

Don’t try to process the order as an NDSS order (they may say “you can get this through NDSS”) unless you’re eligible for the CGM subsidy. Just place an ordinary order for the product (if their price is acceptable) and it will probably arrive within a day or two if they don’t have any on the shelf.

If their price is not acceptable, try a different pharmacy (see above).

Sell more for less?

It will be interesting to see over time if this improved pricing allows AMSL/Dexcom to make more money by selling more units at lower pricing. The “sell more for less” argument is used a lot, but seeing it in action will allow them to measure actual effects.

Even cheaper

Because we have to self-fund our CGMs, many of us have of course explored how to reduce the costs.

Many people (myself included) now use G5 transmitters where we’ve replaced the batteries and reset after 3 months. They’re no longer warrantied medical devices, but they work just fine and the cost to rebattery can range from $10 to $80 depending on how much of the work you want to do yourself.

And many people use their sensors for longer than the 7-day warrantied period. Of course we’re still calibrating several times a day so we get to see when the accuracy drops off.

My personal average over the last 12 months has been 26 days per sensor, although my record was 58 days. At 23 days per sensor I only need 4 boxes per year, which at the new pricing brings my annual CGM cost down to just over $1000! This is significantly cheaper than Libre, which at ~$2500 per year is on paper the cheapest “CGM” although it doesn’t offer real-time alarms.

Diabetes is an expensive-enough condition to live with anyway, all cost savings are welcomed.
And if it enables more people to access life-saving technology then so much the better!

Kids under 21 and a limited number of people with “high clinical need” and health concession status can currently get CGM with 100% subsidy through NDSS. Hopefully the NDSS support will grow (possibly including partial subsidy for everyone). But in the meantime we have to pay.

Dexcom G6?

Some people have been wondering if this cheaper G5 access is a harbinger of the introduction of G6 at a higher price. Time will tell, but meanwhile we should rejoice at any benefit we get in dealing with this very expensive health condition that none of us asked to get!

23 thoughts on “Cheaper CGM!”

  1. This is excellent information and just to let you know that there is also a whole another group of kids who need cgm due to frequent and life threatening lows who are
    Also unable to access
    The subsidy. They also are often too young to be able to communicate lows they may be feeling. These kids are having to have cgm to allow participation in childcare for example.

  2. Thanks BionicWookiee. Ordered mine after seeing the Facebook chatter this afternoon. $258.69 from my local Chemist Warehouse.

    1. Excellent price!
      I live remote WA so don’t have access to walk-in Chemist Warehouse.
      Hope to find our local chemist can provide at a price like this!

    1. You can get Medtronic sensors this way, but apparently it’s close to the Medtronic subscription price.
      Last I checked it was $454 for a Guardian 3 transmitter, and $254 for a box of Guardian 3 sensors.
      The older Enlite stuff was also in the computer, but I’m not sure what stock levels of those are like today: I think Medtronic’s been trying to move everyone to Guardian 3.

  3. Wow! First I heard of this was on one of the DOC Facebook pages but didn’t follow it up…
    Thanks for your clear, informative post – I do love your blog David. ??

  4. Thanks for the info David. I just wanted to mention, as a pharmacist and diabetes educator, that I’ve been looking into this for you and your readers, and it seems if I order the sensors from my NDSS linked wholesaler, then yes, I would need to charge the $500 that someone had mentioned, because the prices we get charged are what is agreed upon between manufacturer and the NDSS.
    However, if I look them up on my non-NDSS-linked wholesaler, then yes, we can get them for the lower prices you and your readers are hoping for, as they are NOT linked to the deals with the NDSS. This just might help everyone get a better outcome when they come into their local pharmacy.

    1. All the pharmacies providing the cheaper prices are NDSS Access Points.

      The price differences may depend on the combination of local pricing policy as well as which wholesaler they get them from. I’ve heard of some pharmacies saying they could do $500, but then when they checked an alternate wholesaler managed to get down to about half of that. And it hasn’t been the same wholesaler each time.

    1. I had a similar discovery with my local chemist: Sensors were available (for a few dollars more than MyChemist, … I don’t begrudge that from my local pharmacist), but the G5 Mobile Transmitter showed up as wholesaling at $1000 via one wholesaler and not available from the other.
      I then tried to buy a transmitter from a MyChemist, but they told me the Transmitter was showing without a price… then they said they’d need to get back to me after getting a Manager to investigate and call me back, and nothing’s happened since.

      This is a shame because I *am* still using the G4 Transmitter – because it lasts for 13 months – but for $273 I was getting very excited about upgrading to the G5.

  5. Every pharmacy I’ve been into tell me about that same prive you’ve listed for the sensors, but for the transmitters, they’re quoting me $1,000+. All of them. Including ChemWarehouse, not-for-prophet pharmacies and other chains. They say as I am not on NDSS, they can only get the stransmitters at cost from AMSL, which is upward of 1K (but odd they can do the sensors cheaper..) what am I doing wrong?
    Can you list a pharmacy phone number that’s doing them at $273? maybe they’ll post them to me in TAS.

  6. Thank you so much!
    Just ordered from ChemWarehouse Inissfail [North Qld].
    They told me the price will be the same everywhere!
    Trans $272.40 Sensors $258.69 = $531.08

    Would anyone be able to help. My Diabetes Educator told me there is a person doing transmitter batteries and other amazing things [unmentioned] in Melbourne via a Facebook page. If you know of this could you please share. Thanks All!

  7. Hi everyone currently I’m using a 679g pump and CGM. However what I’d like to do is use the 670gvin manual mode with a g5 sensor along with a Smart watch. I’m having far too many issues with the medtronic sensors as I’m sure you’re all aware of. Does anyone else use a Medtronic 670 with a g5, and which smart watch offers the best bang for buck? Ideally to monitor blucose levels and heart rate. Thanks. Fingers crossed I can go straight to the g6 fairly soon.

    1. Lots of people use Dexcom sensors in parallel to their pumps (including Medtronic pumps).

      Which watch will be best for you will vary on many factors, including the phone you use. Watches can’t manage a G5 independently: they depend on your phone.

      1. Hi
        Bit late a reply,
        I use libre freestyle sensors 14 day ones. I have a miao miao transmitter which was around a hundred dollars from overseas.
        It is a rechargeable unit.
        With the xdrip+ app it has continuous monitoring with alarms for high low etc.

        Only need the 14 day libre sensors, lucky they are free for me as I qualify for the govt subsidy. Have not needed ambos or hypo kit for a year, can set alert levels which has been great.

  8. Hi Dave, This is great info! Now that G6 is out, is there any update on whether this can be sourced cheaper? Will you be doing a post on G6?

  9. Hi,
    I contacted my local Chemist Warehouse today (11/02/2021) and they advised that the price for G4/G5 sensor was increased to $430 in mid January 2021. Hopefully this is a transient price hike, as I was keen to try Dexcom.
    Kind Regards,

    1. It doesn’t seem so. It seems that AMSL have finally managed to get all the wholesalers to change their prices to MORE than when we buy directly from AMSL.

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