THE FREESTYLE LIBRE GLUCOSE SENSOR: A PUMP USERS PERSPECTIVE
Firstly I’m dedicating this review to my fellow T1DM (you guys know what i mean but for those who don’t, Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus) friends and blog followers who have been asking me to write this review! You asked and I delivered!
I must admit when my Diabetes consultant told me about the Freestyle Libre glucose sensor, I was really quite excited about trying this out but my priority thought was how the sensor would tie in with my Accu-check spirit combo pump?!
I had been waiting a few months to attend the short education group that I had to attend after being let loose with the sensor and get into the nitty griity of using the system. A representative from Abbott laboratories (developers of the device) provided the reader which was mine to keep indefinitely but the sensor would require replacing after 14 days.
For those of you not familiar with this system, basically the Freestyle Libre Blood Testing system is a continuous monitoring system which can monitor your blood glucose 24 hours a day without the need to do finger pricks. A sensor is inserted into your arm and then this stays active for the next 14 days. Each time you want to test your glucose, you simply wave a scanner over the top and voila, your glucose reading will appear on the screen.
I thought I would explain to you my 14 day journey and my experiences of using the system and how I felt it tied in with my current Type I Diabetes monitoring.
INSERTION OF THE SENSOR
Ok, so the first hurdle was getting the sensor into my arm! The contraception to insert the sensor actually looked a lot more invasive than it actually is and I must say I didn’t even feel the cannula go in and wondered if I had actually done this right!
USING THE SYSTEM
Once the insertion was over, you just have to set up the reader via a very basic wizard/intuitive system on the screen. You’re required to add your range target, dates, times, all the basic information which you’ll have to hand anyway. And then you’re ready to go and keep scanning! The instructions on inserting and set-up are really easy to follow so a big thumbs up to Abbott for preparing such a friendly guide.
At first, there’s the obsessive urge to keep scanning as it’s just so easy and straight forward and you don’t need to worry about lancets and strips and all that jazz! But you’ll soon find your routine and scan when necessary. The NICE recommended guidelines are currently that Type I diabetics should monitor at least 4 times per day, usually before each meal and bed but we all know its much more than this especially with driving, hypos and those strange moments when you need to know what’s going on inside you!
I work in clinical research and therefore did all the drug delivery background research – obvs as at the end of the day it’s my day job. The sensor is calibrated by the manufacturer so you will not need to cross check and calibrate with a finger-prick. If you do try and compare results as I did, things may be a little out. This is namely because the Freestyle Libre system measures interstitial glucose as opposed to blood glucose.
Interstitial fluid is a thin layer of fluid surrounding the body’s cells. The glucose level in interstitial fluid is not exactly the same as that in the blood so a continuous glucose monitor such as the Freestyle Libre will apply a formula to give a close guideline of what the blood glucose level is likely to be at that point in time. Glucose levels in blood rise and fall ahead of glucose levels in the interstitial fluid. So the Freestyle Libre monitoring system will give about a 10 minute delay compared to the level given by a blood glucose monitor. This is where the system can come into it’s own as the reader displays arrows going up down or straight to give you the heads up on what will happen to your glucose. If it’s falling/rising, you can insert a strip into the reader bottom and test your blood glucose. This is quite a handy feature that the reader is also a glucose monitor.
So, it all sounds good so far, right? Well I would agree! I loved the fact that I didn’t keep needing to reach into my bag to get my strips, lancets etc and could just pull the reader out and scan my arm – you can totally scan over your clothes too so no need to wear short sleeves!
After the 14 days are up, the sensor deactivates and you simply remove it. The Reader will display a countdown for a few days prior to the date of deactivation as a reminder.
If I was using pen injections, I would be more inclined to be up for this, however there’s still the issue of cost, which I’ll go into later!
As I touched on earlier, I have an Accu-check Spirit Combo pump and using the freestyle-libre for me was much more invaluable than I initially thought as it gave me an idea of what my glucose levels were doing at night and at times that I don’t normally test. I actually had to start manually working out my carb counting and also adding this manually into the pump which I didn’t feel was as accurate. Usually I would test my glucose using the combo handset and I’d have carbs programmed in there so ready to within seconds I can allow the Bluetooth to start injecting straight away!
I do like having the pump therefore don’t necessarily favour the idea of having a continuous glucose monitor too as firstly, I’m carrying around extra kit with me (us girls like to have the smallest bags with us on nights out!!). Secondly in order to get the carb and insulin amount right, I was using my handset and finally we need to talk about the cost implication here…
A starter pack would cost you £159.99 incl VAT. This would include the reader/scanner and also 1 x sensor. I actually got given a starter pack to trial for 14 days and I know many diabetes centres are doing this.
After the 14 day trial if you want to carry on using the system, you have to pay for this as it’s not available on prescription. Each sensor will cost you £57.95 incl. VAT and then delivery on top. So that’s basically almost £58 every 2 weeks.
The software and app are both free and easily downloadable.
I have to say that the software does give you a great representation of your results in different ways and as you are able to add when you had food and insulin, this is also represented here. It’s a great tool as you can print out the graphical representation and take this along to your out patient appointments to discuss and identify target areas with your healthcare professional. I definitely believe this can have a positive effect on the outcome of your diabetes managements.
I guess you have to weigh up the benefits this has to your lifestyle and make a judgement on your own experiences. I would say that if you do have the opportunity to try the system, do so as it is a completely different way of managing your results and the scanning is just so easy! I can totally understand why it’s so popular for using during pregnancy. Personally as much as I’d love there to be a closed loop system, I am seriously thinking of purchasing a few sensors as I want more of an idea what’s going on with my glucose levels during the night,
To read more about the system and how it works including pricing, please head over to the Freestyle Libre website.
If you’ve used the system please let me know you’re thoughts and how you got on with it. If you’ve decided to use this continuously let me know how it’s improved your diabetes management in the comments below. It would be really nice to share thoughts with fellow Type 1 Diabetics, so please don’t be shy!