By Gale Courey Toensing -- TODAY STAFF
IRVINE, Calif. - There is a diabetes diagnostic tool for A1c testing - the test that measures average blood sugar levels over a three-month period - that is more efficient and more accurate than conventional tests, and Vanessa O'Neill wants to bring it to Indian country.
O'Neill, Southern Yupik/Tongva, is the owner of Cedar Spring Inc., a Small Business Administration 8(a) company that provides a variety of readiness, deployment, health and safety support and services to government and industry. But it is the company's diabetic diagnostic technology that O'Neill hopes to bring to Indian country.
''Native Americans and diabetes are very personal to me,'' O'Neill said.
CSI has been operating for three years. Her husband, Lee Standard, works for the company.
''We wanted to do federal contracting and we wanted to do it with the emphasis on helping people. What we realized was that people always need medical attention; and [I asked,] what can I do to make a difference while still earning a living?
''What we came up with was we found a couple of companies that have very unique technologies that can really make such a difference in the quality of lives of people in general, but particularly Native people,'' O'Neill said.
One of the companies is Primus Corp., a medical device manufacturer based in Kansas City.
Primus manufactures an A1c diagnostic machine that can complete accurate tests with results in a doctor's office in 10 minutes, Standard said, providing an explanation of the A1c test and the Primus process ''in layman's terms'' for Indian Country Today.
''All diabetics are supposed to go to the doctor and have blood drawn and sent to the lab for an A1c test every three months. Red blood cells have a three-month life cycle and the A1c test is supposed to measure the amount of glucose that is absorbed by the red blood cell over the course of its life cycle.''
The A1c results show highs and lows within the safe and unsafe ranges of glucose absorption. Doctors use the results to adjust diabetic patients' medications, particularly insulin.
But there are two problems, Standard said.
''One is the A1c does not measure the total amount of glucose that is absorbed by the red blood cells. The other problem is the A1c is calibrated for - and you can put quotes around this - a 'normal white male.' That's the baseline. That's what they use and that's what most A1c machines are calibrated for.''
But the scientific community has identified more than 1,000 hemoglobin variants, many of which provide ''interference'' with the A1c test, he said.
One of the most well-known variants, for example, is sickle cell anemia; but there are hundreds of others that may not affect people's health but will affect the results of the A1c test, thereby providing false information about glucose absorption.
The Primus diagnostic machine overcomes both problems by measuring total glucose absorption without interference, according to Standard.
Accurate tests mean doctors can provide the right level of medication to keep diabetic patients healthy and avoid diabetes-related complications such as renal failure, blindness and amputations that can result if patients slip into high-level diabetes.
''That's devastating to the patients who have those complications, and it's much more cost-effective to the community when you can keep the patients healthy and free of those complications,'' Standard said.
CSI is the exclusive government distributor for the Primus diagnostic machine. The company is on the federal government's supply schedule and so its pricing has been deemed fair and reasonable. All federal agencies can purchase or lease the technology through the CSI contract.
The machines come in various sizes depending on the volume of tests to run. The tests can cost about $1.50 each.
O'Neill said she is eager to introduce the Primus technology in Indian country.
''I'm seeing if this is going to happen to get the word out there to try to help Native people. I'm actually going to talk to Native people and not rely so much on our government to see to it that we get the best health care possible. We know the technology works. It would be an amazing thing to actually see how many people's lives improve, to see how many people's lives are extended and saved because of this.''
For more information, visit www.cspring.com.