FreeStyle Libre: First Observations!

With the life of my FreeStyle Libre sensor coming to an end in a few days, I thought I’d better write some observations while they are fresh in my mind.

I first put my Libre sensor on during Diabetes Exchange in Sydney (disclosures are at the bottom of this post). We were advised that the best place to wear the sensor was on the underside of the upper arm. In similar fashion to an insulin pump infusion site, the sensor came packaged in what looked like an insertion device. It simply “clicked” into place on the arm.

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I’m the kind of person who easily gets annoyed by things. I fiddle with my watch, my medic alert bracelet presses too hard on my skin, and I am always picking at scabs. So I was pleasantly surprised that I have hardly noticed the Libre sensor. So far, the sensor has held nicely on my arm. I had one bath where the sensor was submerged in water for some of the time. I’ve had showers and changed my clothes every day, where the sensor is inevitably subject to some bumps and friction. The sensor is starting to look a little grubby around the edges, though, as it heads towards the end of its life.

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Being Winter, my sensor often sits under warm clothes and I notice it less. It is likely exposed to lesser impact and outdoor activity compared to the warmer months of the year. I’m also not sure how comfortable I’d feel wearing this $95 sensor to the beach under some rough waves.

Some of the other bloggers raised the issue of the Libre not having alarms to alert them of high and low blood glucose readings, which is a very valid point. I am not particularly concerned by this. Just as with finger pricks, I check often enough to be able to catch any impending highs or lows. I’m all for something simple, and that minimises the diabetes junk that I have to carry around with me. The Libre fits the bill nicely. As with anything, more features will mean an even higher price tag.

A great deal of my Libre use has been checking my glucose levels after meals. This has given me an insight into where my levels are heading after I eat, and in evaluating the need to readjust settings and ratios on my new insulin pump. We were told that data may be less accurate than a finger prick when glucose levels are rapidly changing, so please bear this in mind around my observations. 

My Libre reader has typically run around 1-2 mmol higher than the reading on my meter. I have also noticed a more significant difference where my Libre presents a reading greater than 15mmol. I have found greater accuracy where my levels are in single digits, and where there is no active meal bolus in my system.

That being said, the Libre has been super convenient to have while I’m transitioning to the insulin pump. It’s been a huge relief on my fingers at a time where I would likely be using test strips like water. Every morning, I plug it into the computer and upload the data to Diasend. It gives me access to detailed graphs that have tracked the movement of my levels through the night, which is extremely helpful in making decisions around my overnight basal insulin rate.

I walked around without my meter and test strips while I was in Sydney quite comfortably, too. The reader was quite easy to carry around, and fitted nicely into a t-shirt or jeans pocket. It was a really convenient tool to evaluate my blood sugar levels after some big Sydney meals, and a reliable indicator of glucose trends. I would definitely consider buying a sensor next time I plan on travelling.

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After a week and a half with my sensor, I am also feeling extremely challenged not to micromanage data. It’s extremely challenging to look at those annoying trend arrows after meals and not respond to them. It’s for the same reason that I’m not particularly interested in using a Continuous Glucose Monitor (not to mention the price!). I will definitely miss the convenience and the detail of my Libre data when my sensor shuts down on Thursday, but I am also very much looking forward to a break.

You can find out more about the upcoming Australian launch of the FreeStyle Libre at freestylelibre.com.au.

Disclosure: Abbott paid for my travel and accommodation expenses to and from Sydney. I received a FreeStyle Libre reader and 2 sensors free of charge. There was no expectation that I would blog about the Libre. All opinions expressed here remain my own.

11 thoughts on “FreeStyle Libre: First Observations!

  1. Great review. I’ve read a few other blogs on this topic from some of your fellow D-bloggers down under. You all seem to hit on the loveability of no fingersticks which makes this so attractive.

    I do use a CGM and that allows me the freedom to manage without micromanaging as contradictory as that may sound. I understand what you mean about worrring about the trend arrows. It did take some time for me not to feel overwhelmed by it all. Certainly more than a couple of months so perhaps it would be the same with you should you decide to invest in more sensors. I do take breaks from my cgm every now and again.

    Also, I wonder how the price of one two week sensor compares to test strips for that time frame. I know that test strips out of pocket can be pricey (not including the Walmart brand here in the USA).

    1. Thanks, Carmygee. I haven’t used a CGM before, so the intensive data is new territory for me. I like that this is simple compared to a CGM, and the sensor on my arm is the only thing attached to me. I pay around $16 for a box of 100 good quality test strips (subsidised). The sensor costs $95 for 2 weeks of unlimited scanning but is not subsidised. I use a lot of test strips, but I think they would still be the cheaper option. The Libre was a great experience, though, and the data has been helpful with the insulin pump.

      1. Yeah, out of pocket strips would be another story. They’re stupid expensive here (again, Walmart brands excluded – 100ct for 17.88) i.e. Freestyle Lite 100 ct for 159.99 (at Walmart). I am thankful for insurance to be sure.
        I know what you mean about the data begin helpful when using the pump. I love the trending arrows because, for instance, before I go to bed if I still have insulin on board (pump info) and I am at my target range with a steady arrow sideways(CGM) then I will adjust my temporary basal to zero to accommodate what is left in my system. I tend to go low at 4am so my basal is less overnight. If the trend arrow is down, I watch for a bit and have a snack if necessary.
        Anyway, point is I have come to appreciate the arrows because they allow me a bit of diabetes forecasting that I miss when I have my Dexcom breaks.

  2. Fantastic to see you have your pump now Frank. As I am only familiar with cgm, what do you consider are the benefits of using the Libra, for those who have a pump in comparison to using cgm.

    I am able to purchase my cgm sensors at a lower cost then the Libra sensors which is a real surprise to me, as i thought the Libra was going to be a much cheaper alternative to cgm but it would appear not. Look forward to your views.

    Have you had any experience in attempting to extend the sensor life? I have read that a lot of people in the US are getting up to 21 to 28 days out of one sensor although not manufacture recommended or endorsed, this would make the Libra more of an affordable technology for many.

    1. Hi Michele, I think the main advantage here is that it is simple and discreet. The sensor on my arm is the only thing attached to me, compared to bulky CGM transmitters that need to be replaced every few months. There are no alarms, so in that regard it’s not so intrusive as a CGM. You still get the same insight as a CGM so long as you scan every 8 hours, too. I’ve heard that lots of kids prefer the Libre to CGMs.

      I haven’t tried extending the sensor life. I was surprised at the price of the sensors too, especially as they automatically shut down and cannot be used beyond their 14 day life like CGM sensors can. Hope that helps.

      1. AND CGM sensors are technically only approved for 7 day usage so their cost would be higher for 14 days than the Libre following manufacturer’s guidelines.

  3. I use the Dexcom CGM and always get 30 days from my sensors. I could sometimes go longer but decided that with the Tegaderm patch I use to hold them on, I want to put a new patch on at a new location rather than go past 30 days. I get good readings with many spots, including Inner thighs, hip, arm, etc. I use my I-phone app as my receiver and I like the convenience of having warnings of lows at night while I am sleeping. So, I see the cost of the Libre runs approximately the same as the Dexcom after everything is factored in. Nice initiative of the Freestyle company but, overall, I do not see the LIbre having an advantage over the Dexcom. At least for me. Perhaps some of you can get the LIbre cheaper than I see it and some of you don’t need an alarm. The alarm for lows at night is the best feature for me for the Dexcom. So, hopefully more companies will be looking for better and less expensive products for T1 and T2. Congratulation to Freestyle for this effort.

    1. I think the main thing to keep in mind is that the Libre is target at a different audience to a CGM. Some may feel the Libre is more advantageous because it is a simpler device – less hardware

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