How to access a Dexcom G5 CGM for less than half the NZ retail price

The information I’m about to share isn’t a secret and is 100% legal, but interestingly as I write this I am a little nervous. Will I get in trouble for sharing this information? I’m not sure. Will ‘Big Pharma’ change the distribution process or the product to ensure that they keep the monopoly, so people living with Type 1 Diabetes in NZ must buy from a single supplier? I hope not.

For the past three months I’ve been using a Dexcom G5 CGM for $40 a week by ‘working the system’. It’s been performing exactly as I’d expected and it’s time to share how I’ve been doing this. Living well with diabetes shouldn’t be a luxury. Using a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) has drastically improved my blood glucose management, given me confidence to navigate the highs and lows, minimise burnout and live a full, ‘normal’ and healthy life. This life-saving device allows me to be more than my Type 1 Diabetes.

'A Dexcom G5® CGM ‘gives you glucose readings every 5 minutes so you can see your highs, lows and how fast you’re getting there. Better yet, customisable alerts and alarms help you respond quickly to, or avoid potentially dangerous hypoglycaemic events.’ https://nzmsdiabetes.co.nz/

The three brands of Continuous Glucose Monitors available in Aotearoa are not funded, which means you either need to pay yourself or go without. The cost is a barrier for many and therefore the majority of people living with T1D and their supporters never experience the benefits they provide, increasing the health inequalities that exist in NZ even further.

A Diabetes NZ petition challenging the government to fund CGMs for people living with Type 1 Diabetes was delivered to Parliament in November 2019. It was signed by 27,958 people and was due to be reviewed by the Health Select committee in March 2020. Unfortunately when COVID-19 hit our shores all funding proposals were put on hold.

Currently the Dexcom G5 CGM is only available in NZ through NZMS and costs $5,234 on a 12 month subscription plan. (An initial payment of $999 followed by $385 per month starting from the second month). This works out to $100.65 a week.

The 12 month Dexcom G5 subscription plan includes 4 transmitters and 6 boxes of 4 sensors. This will last 12 months, provided you can get 15 days from each sensor. Note: A transmitter lasts for three months and each Dexcom sensor is ‘indicated for 7 days consecutive use’. However you are able to extend the life of each sensor by ‘restarting it’ once it ends. On average people are able to get an extra 1-3 weeks use.

Alternatively you can purchase individual Dexcom G5 Transmitters and sensors as you need them:

  • Dexcom G5 Transmitter - $750

  • Box of 4 x sensors - $530

http://nzmsdiabetes.co.nz/product-category/dexcom/

I’ve been using this technology for $40 a week. Let’s look at how:

1. Purchase Dexcom G5 sensors online from Chemist Warehouse Australia

  • https://www.chemistwarehouse.com.au/

  • A box of 4 sensors costs $258.69 AUD ($279.31 NZD based on 19.05.20 exchange rate).

  • When Chemist Warehouse Australia started selling Dexcom CGMs we were able to ship to a New Zealand address, unfortunately this is no longer possible.

  • You will need to send your order to an Australian address and ask them to post it to you in New Zealand.

2. Purchase a Dexcom G5 transmitter online from Chemist Warehouse Australia

  • https://www.chemistwarehouse.com.au/

  • A transmitter costs: $272.39 AUD ($294.10 NZD based on 19.05.20 exchange rate).

  • You will need to send your order to an Australian address and ask them to post it to you in New Zealand.

Alternatively if you have an old Dexcom G5 transmitter with flat batteries, you’ll need to replace the batteries

  • Feel free to give this a go yourself (it was way over my head) or search for someone that is able to change the batteries on TradeMe https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYgHi9GAZvw

  • I paid $100 to have the batteries replaced in an old transmitter I had. I found the person on TradeMe and he guaranteed the new batteries would last for three months. The service and communication was great.

  • Sometimes you can find old Dexcom G5 transmitters on TradeMe too, or reach out to the online T1 community.

3. Insert Dexcom G5 sensor and transmitter, as per normal process

4. Link the CGM to a device (receiver) and start the sensor to see what’s happening with your blood sugar levels

5. Two hours later once the sensor has ‘warmed up’, calibrate the sensor

  • Test your blood glucose levels using your blood glucose monitor and enter the information into the receiver.

6. You’re good to go!!!

After 7 days you’ll receive an alert saying the sensor is due to end. When it does, simply restart it using steps 4 and 5. I’ve recently been able to extend my sensor for another 1-2 weeks, reducing how often I need to change it and therefore the overall cost.

NOTE: This isn’t guaranteed and I recommend keeping a close eye on your data during the extra weeks. If you notice the connection between the sensor and the receiver drops out often for long periods or is it becoming less accurate, this normally means it’s time to replace the sensor.

Let’s compare prices

The prices below are based on the assumption that you will get 15 days use per sensor. (I normally average between 14-21 days.) This would mean 4 x transmitters and 6 x boxes of 4 sensors would last a year.

A couple of things to keep in mind:

  • For any technical issues with your Dexcom sensors or transmitters call 0508 634 103. It doesn’t matter where your Dexcom products were purchased, the team are able to troubleshoot with you. However they can only organise replacement products for items that are under warranty and purchased via NZMS.

  • The Dexcom products purchased via Chemist Warehouse Australia and NZMS are the same.

  • A NZMS rep will show you how to use the Dexcom CGM if you purchase through them. This can be a great way to build your confidence using a CGM before sourcing the product elsewhere.

  • These figures haven’t included postage from Australia to NZ, which can vary. I was quoted $18.20 AUD standard post and $33.20 AUD for signature post ETA 3-5 working days, plus $8 AUD for insurance to send a box of sensors.

  • NZMS have just launched the Dexcom G6 here in New Zealand and it’s expected in Australia soon. We’re watching this closely to see how this will affect our ability to purchase the Dexcom G5 CGM for less in the future.

Creative, legal and safe ways to access life-saving diabetes technology shouldn't be a secret. I’d love to hear if you give it a go and please share this with anyone else it could help. Until funded CGMS become our reality we're reliant on these 'hacks' to help many more people living with Type 1 diabetes reap the health benefits they provide.

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