[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 14 day system to me, which included a scanner and three sensors. This whole review needs that bias lens in place. Good? Good. Thanks for reading.]
My left arm has sported a Libre sensor for the last two weeks. Today is the last day of my first sensor, and I’ve got some thoughts on this whole thing:
COST: Since I received these sensors as part of a marketing outreach effort, I don’t have the best assessment of cost. But when I purchased (out of pocket) some 10 day sensors last year, they cost me $25 per sensor. According to the Freestyle Libre website, “Most commercially insured patients will pay between $40 to $75 per month for FreeStyle Libre 14 day sensors.” From my vantage point as a PWD with 85% insurance coverage for DME, the Libre would be cheaper by a long shot. That matters.
COMFORT: The Libre is superior to any continuous glucose monitor (or flash glucose monitor) I’ve ever worn, in terms of comfort. The sensor has been on my arm for two weeks. It hasn’t ached at all, it doesn’t itch even a little bit, and I’m hoping that when I pull it off, it won’t leave a huge red circle in its wake. Wearability is a HUGE issue for me, as my skin is compromised in a lot of ways after 13+ years of wearing a CGM. The scaly, itchy patches left behind by Dexcom sensors take months to fully heal, and sometimes my Dexcom sensors ache after insertion, and even days later. Libre doesn’t hurt at all going in and it doesn’t leave a nasty rash behind. This is a big deal. Big. Deal.
EASE OF USE: This new iteration of the Freestyle Libre allows me to use an app on my iPhone to scan the sensor. That means the need for carrying around the separate scanning device is gone. No need to tote around anything extra. And the scanning process is easy – I can easily scan through a thick, winter coat without a problem. The 14 day sensor also has a one hour warm up time instead of 12 hours … no need to explain why this is better, right?
INTEGRATION AND ACCURACY: The Libre is not integrated into my pump, which leaves the Basal IQ feature on my pump rendered useless. I’ll get into this more in the PREFERENCES section. And in terms of accuracy, it matched my glucose meter solidly two out of the three times I spot-checked it. One time, the Libre was convinced I was really low when in fact I was only 80-something mg/dL, and that pissed me off because I treated a non-low. But on the whole, my confidence was mostly earned.
PREFERENCES: As a stand-alone device, I think the Freestyle Libre is a solid piece of tech. It doesn’t require calibration, it removes the need to prick my finger, and it’s comfortable to wear. It costs less than the Dexcom system, at face value, and I can see it being easy for all kinds of PWD to make this system part of their daily care plan.
But in my house, lows are a problem. Hell, highs are a problem, too. (No perfection here.) And the lack of alarms for highs and lows on the Freestyle Libre remains the preference deal-breaker for me. Also, the Libre is not integrated with my Tandem X2 pump, so I didn’t have the safeguard of Basal IQ. After wearing the Libre for two weeks, I realized how much tighter my control was by leaning on the Basal IQ. Maybe not an A1C changer, but definitely a time-in-range changer, as I wasn’t dipping into the hypo red zone so often when wearing the G6/X2 combination. In terms of works best for me, and knowing my own management shortcomings and how tech fills in some of those gaps for me, my quality of life is improved when I’m thinking less about diabetes. And while the Libre is amazing, it’s not the best fit for my goals.
BUT, as I’ve said 1,000 times, there’s no Lorax of diabetes; I only speak for me. In the next week, I’ll have a take on the Freestyle Libre system from a friend who has type 2 diabetes, and their assessment includes a different perspective. In the meantime, I’m very happy with how the Libre performs, and if it were able to alarm and/or integrate with my pump, I’d use it way more confidently.
To find out more, you can visit the Freestyle Libre website. And if you have made it all the way to the bottom of this long post, you get a snuggle: