[DISCLOSURE – PLEASE READ: The team at Abbott reached out to me and asked if I’d like to trial the Freestyle Libre system. I said yes. After my doctor approved a prescription for the device, Abbott sent out the scanning device and two sensors at no cost to me. This whole review needs that bias lens in place. Good? Good. Thanks for reading.]
I put my first Freestyle Libre system sensor on and fully expected it to be exactly like my Dexcom CGM. And it’s not.
So I tried to realign my expectations when I put the second sensor on. My focus was on what it does, versus what I thought it should be doing.
The Freestyle Libre system is, as I mentioned earlier, very easy to put on. My second sensor was applied while I was in the car, waiting for the gas pump to fill up my car. (It was a little awkward, whipping my arm out of my jacket and installing the sensor, but it was – again – a pain-free insertion.) It doesn’t hurt to wear. And after 20 days of wearing it, the adhesive is really impressive. It didn’t come loose at all and yet didn’t leave an evil suction mark on the back of my arm, so that’s a huge plus. Anything that’s gentle with my skin real estate is a win in my book.
The 12 hour warming up period is still crap, though. Twelve hours?! That’s a long ass time. And both sensors I used were put on around 9 am, which meant I had a whole day without streaming data. The international system queues up in an hour, and I hope that timeframe eventually makes it through the FDA hurdles, because 12 hours sucks.
The results from the FLS (Freestyle Libre system, because I can’t keep typing that over and over again) were consistent, in that they weren’t flouncing all over the place but they were consistently lower when compared to my Freestyle Freedom glucose meter. Every finger stick was higher by about 30 pts. This isn’t a huge deal but it was often the difference between “correct the BG” and “let it ride.” So that was a concern for me, dosing insulin based on these data points.
The ease of checking my blood sugar was … easy. The FLS remains simple to use. Push the button, it makes a bing! noise to prompt a swipe, then swipe past the sensor and bing! again with the result on the screen. And not just the result, but the last 8 hours of my data popped up, too, in addition to a BG directional arrow (much like the standard CGM information I was used to). This is crucial data. Remembering to grab that additional device, though, remains a drawback. I carry enough crap around. Less is more.
The ease of checking actual blood sugar with a finger stick using the FLS was frustrating because the FLS scanner also doubles as a glucose meter, meaning you can put a test strip into it and check your blood sugar. But only if you have Freestyle Precision Neo test strips, which are completely different from the ones I use in my Freestyle Freedom meter, which means I’d need to order a whole new set of test strips in order to use the Libre as a meter and OMG this sentence has so many nouns in it. No. I do not want to order another set of anythings. Why can’t these products, which are part of the same medical family, use the same test strips? Ugh on this one.
I spent the entire duration of my second FLS sensor without my Dexcom sensor on, so I was only tracking BGs via finger sticks and FLS. And for the most part, the lack of alarms were refreshing. Yeah, I feel like a total hypocrite writing that, because the lack of alarms are precisely why I’d never ditch my Dexcom, but I do experience alarm fatigue. (I think I experience all sorts of fatigues …) Not having a device frigging ding, dong, wail all over the place was a nice change of pace. No, my blood sugars weren’t in better or worse control while on the FLS; I just didn’t have any alarms to contend with. It was nice. The quiet was appreciated, especially in a time when lots of other stressors are ding, dong, wailing.
I also uploaded my data from the FLS using Tidepool’s data management service and that was a really gorgeous way to see my data. (Unrelated but related: I signed on to Tidepool for the first time ever and connected my Dexcom G5 data, my Tandem X2 info, and the FLS output and it was easy-peasy. I’ll do a longer post on the Tidepool experience because I need to start looking at/tracking my data again, and Tidepool is my digital weapon of choice.)
Sensor two was a nicer experience than sensor one because I wasn’t bugging out about what the FLS didn’t do. And if I were looking for some mellow BG maintenance, I’d lean on the FLS for sure. Since the cost is minimal by comparison for the FLS, I’m going to purchase a few sensors and keep them on hand for when I’d prefer that data stream over the high-intensity information onslaught of a standard CGM. But, to be entirely honest, I’m better off with a Dexcom at this point because the alarms aid in keeping me accountable. And that accountability is best for me right now.
Overall, this system is a good one. Better than stand-alone finger sticks and a big step forward for the type 1 and type 2 community, and I hope the introduction of this product in the US market inspires even more competition between the companies, giving the diabetes community a broader scope of choices. I hope. I hope.