Although I’ve not made too much of it on here, I’m an Insulin Dependent Diabetic and have been for 26 years. In that time I’ve taken loads of insulin, performed thousands of fingerprick blood glucose (BG) tests and been for numerous Hba1C tests. And this year, for the first time an affordable alternative to fingerpricking arrived, promising to make management of blood glucose levels far easier.
One of my pet complaints about diabetes management has always been that spot glucose tests don’t tell you anything about trends or direction that your BG is moving in. You have to take multiple tests in short succession to see this. The alternative was to spend a lot of money (think thousands) on a Continuous Glucose Monitoring system (CGMS). It did what i wanted but cost a fortune.
And then this year, Abbott came our with “Flash Glucose monitoring”. Essentially a CGM sensor technology that the readings are manually taken off by holding a reader close to the sensor using NFC to transfer the data. And more importantly, it doesn’t cost the earth. And it’s called “Freestyle Libre”.
Now this device seemed like a boon for IDDs, so after giving it a couple of weeks and seeing how others got on, I jumped in feet first and splashed out my first £150 for a reader and two sensors.
If you want details of it, take a look here, http://www.freestylelibre.co.uk as I won’t go into how it works/what it is, but more my experience.
I initially decided that I’d only jump in for the first month, use the sensor system to get control and then stop. I’ve now discovered that I can’t. Why? Because I’ve had a great experience with it.
I’ve been able to reset my basal insulin levels thanks to the continuous graphs of bg levels, address my bolus timings due to seeing when the spikes occur and adjust timings accordingly and lower my Hba1C thanks to the gains in insight into what’s really going on with by glucose levels. In short it has made my diabetic life significantly better managed.
That’s not to say it’s all good news though.
There has been varying reliability of the sensors. Out of four I purchased, one failed. I had a replacement in my hands within 4 days though, so hats off to Abbott customer care for that one. Others have seen much higher failure rates.
The adhesive on the sticky pads that ensure the sensor is stuck to the arm appropriately has caused some people to have reactions and in some cases, it hasn’t been found to stick for the full fourteen day “life” of the sensor. Neither are issues that I have experienced.
Some have experienced poor customer services when issues have arisen.
Prior to release, it would appear that the test sample population for accuracy purposes was 75 people and for sensor reactivity (i.e. allergic reactions) it was 30. Neither is a large sample size. One might suggest that those of us who are early adopters are the real market trial, finding all the real issues and concerns, as well as benefits, that arise with the system. Some might argue that we have all bought in (quite literally) to be guinea pigs and may not be best pleased with that.
Casting those points aside, Abbott has seen huge demand from across Europe, to the extent that they have restricted new customers until “Q1 2015”. Some think this is due to a lack of stock while others have put forward conspiracy theories regarding quality control and tweaking the product.
There is a large amount of discussion on the diabetes.co.uk forum, to be found here:
Casting all this aside, my experience of this product has been overwhelmingly positive. I have found it has given me an insight into glucose levels that wasn’t available elsewhere. It has really made a difference. I have little doubt that competitor products will appear before long, given the experience that Abbott has had with demand.
In short, this is revolutionary technology that all diabetics should have access to in order to manage their glucose levels. Whoever makes them, they should be available on the NHS.
Abbott only allow them to be sold to the markets they have approval for. You'd have to contact them to determine where this might be. From what I've seen so far this includes the UK and France. I'm not sure which other European markets are included.