Device Review: FreeStyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitoring System
Why the FreeStyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitoring System Exists
Blood glucose monitors provide a critical function for diabetics. They test the blood and let diabetics know whether their blood sugar is high, low, or within normal range. Traditional monitors require diabetics to prick their fingertips with a lancet to get a blood sample, which is painful and inconvenient. The readings from this type of monitor are only taken at the time of these tests. Diabetics looking for more data on their blood sugar would have to repeat this process multiple times throughout the day.
The Freestyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitoring System is a continuous glucose monitor. This type of monitor takes blood glucose readings continuously, allowing diabetics to better understand their blood sugar trends over time. Rather than relying on pinpricks, the sensor part of the Libre is attached to the upper arm. Depending on the model of Libre, you either use the Libre Reader or a smartphone app to collect and analyze this data. The sensor lasts for 14 days before you need to replace it.
Continuous glucose monitors are an unobtrusive and convenient way to keep an eye on blood sugar levels without needing to do painful pinpricks. Diabetics can use this information to make better decisions about their treatment options.
The FreeStyle Libre comes with a 14-day sensor, the reader that interfaces with the sensor, a USB charge cable, and a power adapter.
Who the FreeStyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitoring System is Meant For
Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics can benefit from using the FreeStyle Libre. This medical device is approved for anyone with diabetes, starting from four years old. The people who get the most from the FreeStyle Libre are those who dislike or avoid testing their blood sugar because of the inconvenience or pain from traditional monitors, people struggling to control their blood sugar, and those who want more data on their levels throughout the day.
Since so many factors impact blood sugar beyond what a person eats and drinks, having access to more information makes it possible to pinpoint situations where the readings are outside of the targeted range. The medical team and the user can then use this data to adjust medication, make lifestyle changes, and take other actions that improve their health.
FreeStyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitoring System Benefits
The FreeStyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitoring System comes in two versions, the original FreeStyle Libre 14 Day System and the FreeStyle Libre 2. The benefits shared by both of these systems include:
- Eliminating finger pricks.
- Blood glucose testing every minute.
- Scanning the sensor to access the blood glucose readings only takes one to two seconds.
- No longer needing to take a blood glucose monitor, test strips, and lancets with you when you’re outside the house.
- A small form factor that’s easy to hide.
- Access to the MyFreeStyle program, which provides 14-days of step-by-step support that walks you through using a continuous glucose monitor, how to get the most out of the data collected, and providing more information about factors that impact blood sugar.
The FreeStyle Libre 14 Day System has one feature not currently shared by the FreeStyle Libre 2. You can read the sensor for this model with either the reader or a smartphone with the FreeStyle LibreLink application installed. As of this writing, the FreeStyle Libre 2 is currently waiting for FDA approval of meter readings with a smartphone.
This application displays your trends over time and your current glucose reading. It generates reports you can use for your diabetes treatment. You can also make notes on your activity levels, meals, and insulin intake to add more context to the readings. With the LibreView feature, healthcare professionals can access this data. The application works with iPhone and Android devices.
The FreeStyle Libre 2 adds optional real-time glucose alarms to alert you if your blood sugar levels are too low or too high. This feature is beneficial for insulin-dependent diabetics, as they can adjust their insulin doses or take corrective action through glucose tablets. You can also use alerts to let you know if the sensor and reader lose signal with one another.
The reader that comes with both FreeStyle Libre systems stores up to 90 days of glucose data. This device also acts as a traditional blood glucose monitor to assist with double-checking concerning blood glucose levels. It’s USB rechargeable and has a color touchscreen.
FreeStyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitoring System Drawbacks
The FreeStyle Libre does have a few drawbacks to consider. One of the biggest ones is that the sensor portion of this system needs to be replaced every 14 days. While the installation process is straightforward and relatively painless, some people with diabetes may feel like it’s a bit of a hassle. For example, Type 2 diabetics with good control over their blood sugar and who are not insulin-dependent may not need access to continuous data.
To have full access to all the data collected, you have to scan the sensor every eight hours. The sensor replacements can be costly, depending on the diabetic’s insurance coverage.
Some people struggle with keeping the sensor in place, although there are third-party products that assist with this issue. Others may be allergic to the adhesive used with the sensor.
The FreeStyle Libre system requires a prescription, unlike traditional glucose monitors and diabetic supplies
FreeStyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitoring System Pricing
The device manufacturer estimates that the majority of people with private insurance will only pay up to $60 per month for the FreeStyle Libre 2 sensors, with many receiving them for free. The reader costs up to $65, but only needs to be purchased once.
The estimated retail price for private pay patients runs between $110 – $130 for two 14-day sensors.
FreeStyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitoring System Alternatives
Several other continuous glucose monitoring systems are available. One of the most popular is the Dexcom C6, which has a similar form and functions to the FreeStyle Libre. However, you have to replace the sensors every ten days, and the sensor only reads blood sugar levels every five minutes. Positives include have customizable alerts, Siri voice compatibility, a smartphone app, and data sharing with 10 other people.
Medtronic has two continuous glucose monitors, the Guardian, which works in tandem with the company’s insulin pumps, and the Guardian Connect, which is a stand-alone system similar to the FreeStyle Libre. The sensors need to be replaced every seven days, and data is sent to the smartphone app every five minutes.
Senseonics Eversense takes a different approach from the other continuous glucose monitors on the market. Rather than being applied to the skin, the sensor is implanted into the arm in a short operation. Its biggest advantage compared to other systems is that the sensor lasts up to 180 days. A transmitter goes over the insertion point and sends data to the smartphone. Unfortunately, this transmitter needs to be charged every day.