Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending Abbott’s Diabetes Exchange event in Sydney (see below for disclosures). I went into this event excited about trialling the FreeStyle Libre, and meeting some of the other Australian bloggers in person. Having only communicated with PR ladies Hannah and Laura prior to the event, I was surprised to learn that there was an Australian based Abbott team. I was also pleasantly surprised that they were such a core part of our proceedings over the two days.
Peter, Bruce, Michael, Pamela and Jen were with us throughout the whole two days worth of proceedings. They each presented in front of us, but they were also very much with us in a social context, too. They dined with us on Thursday evening, they sat next to us during the formal proceedings, and they also put their cooking skills to the test with us on Friday afternoon at the Sydney Fish Market.
Going into this event, I honestly wouldn’t have thought I’d have anything in common with these guys. They were there to sell us a product, after all. However, I had some really great conversations with most of them. Although not all of them had diabetes themselves, I could see how genuinely passionate they were in the work they did. I could see how genuinely interested they were in us. Not just about the diabetes, either. I recall speaking with Jen, in particular, for at least an hour at dinner on Thursday.
One of the highlights of the event was hearing from Udo Hoss, who talked us through the “science” of the FreeStyle Libre.
We learned about how the Libre sensors were clinically proven to produce accurate and consistent results across their whole 14 day life. I learned about the term Mean Absolute Relative Distance (MARD) from regular blood glucose checking. From memory, the MARD must be below 15% in order to be a reliable indicator of glucose levels. The Libre system achieved a MARD of 11.4% across its 14 day sensor life, making it accurate enough to make insulin dosing decisions from. For this reason, Abbott are pitching the Libre as a replacement for finger pricks.
Given that the MARD is slightly higher during the first 24 hours, I cheekily put my hand up and suggested that we should receive an extra day’s worth of sensor life to compensate. There was a lot of laughter in the room, but sadly no leeway!
There were also three conditions where we were told to confirm a Libre scan with a finger prick.
- When glucose levels were low.
- When symptoms don’t match glucose readings. (Corrected)
- When glucose levels are rapidly changing.
We raised the question of how we would be able to push the sensor life beyond it’s 14 days. Unfortunately they automatically shut down, as Abbott cannot guarantee their accuracy or safety beyond the 14 day life.
We were also told that the data lagged by about 6 minutes.
It’s easy to sit behind a computer and complain about something being too expensive, or something else being difficult to access. Trust me, I’m guilty of it. Yes, Abbott are a business, and like any business they are trying to sell us a product. I acknowledge how privileged I am to be able to try this product free of charge. The $95 price tag for each sensor will place it out of reach for many, I’m sure.
That being said, sitting in with the team from Abbott really gave me a greater appreciation for the whole product. I had a much greater appreciation for the whole research and development process, and not just the item that I see on the shelf at the Chemist.
Thanks again to the team at Abbott for your great hospitality, and for having me at DX2 Sydney.
You can learn more about the Australian launch of the FreeStyle Libre at freestylelibre.com.au.
Disclosure: Abbott paid for my travel expenses to and from Sydney. I received a FreeStyle Libre reader and two sensors free of charge. There was no compensation, or expectation that I would blog about the event. All opinions expressed here are my own.