A Flash (meter) in the Pan: My 2018 Review of Freestyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitor

///A Flash (meter) in the Pan: My 2018 Review of Freestyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitor
Diabetes Bites Newsletter

ALICIA-unleashedAlicia: UnLeashed! March 2018 monthly article

A Flash (meter) in the pan: My Review of Freestyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitor after 10 days

omnipod freestyle libreWith so many new and emerging technologies I have been testing out a lot of different methods for managing my diabetes recently. So, when I got an emailed offer for all Dexcom users to get a free Freestyle Libre sensor and scanner I gave it a whirl.

Gary gave the sensor a try and rigorously crunched the numbers for accuracy, because it’s a meter, that’s what it is for right? To give us accurate blood sugar data. However, I took a different tack. I wanted to experience living with the Libre like anyone would for 10 days.

Day one was an interesting and novel feeling as I put my glucometer in a drawer. That little zipper pouch that has occupied its own little corner of my coffee table, nightstand, desk and purse for well over a decade went away for 10 days while I lived finger stick free. This is the first perk, and first draw back of the Libre system, no finger sticks! There is no calibration needed for this system, you insert and move on with your life. I did continue to test for the first day and a half. Initially it was to allow the sensor the first day to “warm up” as other sensors do, the rest of the time was for me to trust it with my life. But no calibration means that, should the system be off from a fingerstick blood sugar you can not calibrate it to improve accuracy. I found that elevated blood sugars were often measured higher by the Libre than my Contour Next meter (ranked as most accurate) This is disconcerting since I am accustomed to being able to use my dexcom data in place of finger sticks. I don’t want to switch to a device that is less reliable. That first day brought to light a second issue, losing a day of data with every new sensor, that’s minimum 10% data lost right away. The only way around this would be to acquire a second scanner and start/insert a new sensor a day before removing the old one. This would reduce the data gap, but it remains to be seen whether one could upload multiple scanners to one user profile to have complete reports.

Once I’d established relative reliability I set about my life with Libre. I loved the fit. The transmitter is circular so it did not catch on clothing. It is extremely low profile, so it did not catch on doorways as a Dexcom on my outer arm tends to do form time to time. And there is no space between the transmitter and the adhesive ring, so there was nowhere for water to sit or fabric to catch. I was pretty thrilled with the fit and feel of wearing it!

And the Downsides?

My dissatisfaction came quickly however when I was about to leave the house. I had my keys and phone in my pocket, my infant son packed and bundled and since I use a pump and a Dexcom that’s usually all I need to head out the door! Then I remembered, THE SCANNER! I set about the house in a mad dash looking for the small black device. (WHY do they keep making these things black?! The single most losable color possible!) needless to say that after searching long enough for my little boy to throw a complete fit about still wearing his coat, I finally found the scanner. I HATE carrying extra things. Small losable things are not going to last long in my life. I have my Dexcom info on my pump, just so I don’t have to carry my phone! So being late to an event because I can’t find my scanner was a big down side for me.

By the end of the second day I had the second disappointment, no alerts. I am very hypo aware and pretty in tune with my body’s responses so I was not scared about low alerts, though many people are. I was more concerned that I either had to keep an eye on the clock to check my post meal blood sugars, or wait until I had a headache from being above 180 to alert me that my blood sugar had not come down as expected. (We all miss a carb count here or there or have pump issues that leave us higher than expected) So by the time I swiped, rather than being alerted within a few minutes of exceeding 180, I might sit there for an hour or more until I swiped to get the reading to let me know to correct. This was really disappointing. My average went up 20 points in a week simply because I was not getting high alerts.

For many parents the greatest thing that a Dexcom gives them is a nights sleep! They no longer have to wake in the night to go to their child’s room and check to see if they are low. But since the Libre no longer gives them a real time alert, parents still have to set the alarm clock, wake up, go to their child’s room and scan them for a blood sugar and hope that they do not enter the room to find the child having been low for too long.

This lead me to what I really disliked about the Libre. Though it fit more nicely on my arm, it did not fit nicely in my life. It made me think about my diabetes so much more! I glance at my dexcom info like most people glance at their watch. In fact, I often am checking the time on my pump and just happen to also glance at my blood sugar. Having to swipe myself like a piece of fruit at the grocery store and listen to the scanner loudly beep at me, made me feel like a sick person taking a moment to tag in with diabetes. Glancing at my pump makes me feel like a normal person tagging in with technology to live my life.

So 10 days later I was back on my Dexcom and actually welcoming the little vibration to let me know I was north of my anticipated post prandial range. The Freestyle Libre is a great tool! But I find this marketing attempt to get people to switch form Dexcom to the Libre a bit laughable. It really feels like a step back for me.

However, since using the Libre I have been reaching out to a LOT of people in my life, previous patients, and patient care environments to recommend the Libre!

So who is a great fit for the Freestyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitor?

  • Anyone in an assisted care environment who is currently using a traditional glucometer.

Compliance, errors in testing, reduced dexterity, and improved relationship between a person with diabetes and their care giver all make the Libre ideal for these persons! Just after the Libre was approved by medicare I immediately reached out to every care giver I knew of a person with diabetes since this could benefit their relationships by no longer forcing the person to associate caregiver interactions with pain and frustration of fingersticks. I can not over emphasize this benefit.

  • Less tech savvy patients

Dexcom use does take a few steps to insert, putting the transmitter in the sensor, getting the transmitter back out of the sensor after removal, and interacting with a receiver or app that takes some amount of technical acumen. This is not ideal for everyone. However the Libre is extremely simple to insert and even simpler to use after that. The user does not have to be bothered with setting lots of possible alerts and repeats and tones. They get the on the spot data they want without the threat of being overwhelmed by info or options, meanwhile providers can still download the full 24 hour data they look for to improve treatment.

  • Those suffering from tech/data overload & alert fatigue

There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Getting too much data on our blood sugar can lead some users to become overly fixated on their data, their trends, their numbers, endlessly seeking the “good” numbers, or troubled by “bad numbers”. This can be a significant variable adding to diabetes self management burn out. The great thing about the Libre is that it only gives you as much information as you want, it’s not pushy, it doesn’t beep at you at all! No calibration beeps, no alert beeps, not even a sensor out of range beep. But you still get the full 24 hours of data to look back on for analysis as you like.

  • Persons with diabetes and sensory disorders

Technology can raise some particular difficulties for persons with sensory disorders (such as autism spectrum disorders) and their caregivers. The sudden interruption of a beep, a vibration, or even a suddenly lighting up screen can be very disruptive. The great thing about the Libre is there is no risk of any sudden startling noises or flashes. The transmitter sits quietly, unobtrusively on the skin and the only interaction with noise or light is when it is scanned.

  • Persons with type 2 diabetes or other glycemic control needs without the need for alerts

Many prescribers have persons with type 2 diabetes test their blood sugar once daily, some rotating this time to try to get a more accurate picture. But the fact of the matter is that this is like trying to see Wonderland by peering through the keyhole. Other persons with type 2 diabetes are ordered to check their blood sugar more often but are not getting the data needed to see the cause and effect relationships that drive more effective treatment decisions both by the patient and their provider. These persons have a far lower risk of hypoglycemia or DKA that would indicate benefits of real time alerts, but wold greatly benefit from more comprehensive monitoring.

  • Finger stick resistant or phobic patients

Anyone who has a barrier to achieving the number of finger stick blood sugar checks they need in a day, even to calibrate their Dexcom, could clearly benefit from the Libre as it requires no finger sticks after the initial warmup period, and if one were able to overlap the devices as mentioned above fingers sticks can be minimized further.

The bottom Line…

I love giving different treatment options a try. I don’t often find one that makes me want to jump ship from my current methods, but I am always excited to see more options.  More options mean that more people living with diabetes will get the care they need, that fits their life! More options also means more competition which drives further innovation and development and that benefits everyone!

Back to March 2018 Newsletter
By |2018-03-21T20:43:24+00:00March 21st, 2018|Diabetes Bites, March 2018 Newsletter|26 Comments

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  1. james harleess March 23, 2018 at 8:50 pm - Reply

    On free style libre, the 12 hour delay is not big issue with me, I put a new one on 9 pm each night. So for most of wait/ delay hours I am just sleeping. When I awake by often 3 am I will check blood sugar with manual meter once. On the absence of low or high alerts., I think I have read an application for phone scanning of sensor, with alerts is on it’s way. Not sure of available date., but the
    libre sensor is most often telling us to double check on high and low double-check, as if it wants us be sure of true high or low. I enjoy not doing manual blood sugar checks 5 or more per day. I find myself using reader as much as 12 to 20 times per day, specific.

  2. Jenny Fancke June 2, 2018 at 2:56 pm - Reply

    Tried it out for 7 patches.
    My endocrinologist advised me it was good as a short term measure but probably not advisable long term – not cost effective.
    The patch was supposed to adhere to my arm for 12 days. In all my patch usages I never achieved the 12 days.
    They ranged from 6 through to 9days at a cost of A$50 for each patch.
    I love the idea of a finger pricking free glucose testing kit & carting around minimal medical stuff. I also love the idea of not being hooked up with plastic tubing to another machine.
    I’m disappointed that continuous BGM just doesn’t seem to be convenient, inconspicuous available or affordable.

    • alicia downs June 18, 2018 at 5:53 pm - Reply

      You might want to check out the new G^ from Dexcom, no calibration with 10 day wear

  3. izzy August 11, 2018 at 4:34 am - Reply

    I found my way here because the freestyle libre website has no section for comments or reviews. I am 19 years old and am on my 3rd sensor. I can honestly say I love it will all my heart. I no longer have to check as often which is my biggest struggle to begin with and i can test as many times a day so it’s usually between 8-15. I prefer this over the dexcom because it is small enough where I can cover it easily and it sits comfortably on my arm as the dexcom looks like it hurts and is very noticeable which for me a college student makes me insecure and I don’t want to announce to the world I have diabetes or get asked unnecessary questions. now I may love it here are the downsides: the tape has only lasted me a max of 8 days but it also depends on how much time you spend in the water, well this week I was on vacation and the website stated it had not been tested in salt water so I decided to do it on my own because I had my meter with me so why not. well salt water makes the take come up wicked fast and lasted me only 5 days out of the 10. I believe a quick fix to this problem would be to add more tape around the sensor to make it more secure and make it easier to apply stuff to make the tape sticky again. besides that love the product but just has a few flaws

  4. John August 21, 2018 at 4:34 pm - Reply

    The 12 hour delay is the worst, and it counts as part of the 10 days also, so in reality you only get 9 1/2 days of usage out of each sensor (at least in the US, everywhere else it is only 1-2 hours from what I’ve read). Hoping the one in the US can catch up to the rest of the world (FDA sucks!).

  5. Leslie Ray August 22, 2018 at 2:03 am - Reply

    I tried the Freestyle Libre system for a total of just under 48 hours. I applied the sensor with the detailed instructions given by my doctor and after reading the instructions that came with the system. Washed my arm and let it dry thoroughly. Used alcohol and let it dry again. Used Skin Tac and then applied the sensor. Everything went smoothly, and I was content that I’d done everything correctly. Yes, I placed in the area on my arm as indicated by the instructions. The monitor was easy enough to set up and use. I was actually kind of excited to be able to check my blood glucose frequently so that I could start to see a pattern to the glucose fluctuations. Then today, I kind of felt like I was feeling a little pain in my arm after clearing off my kitchen counters. I examined the sensor and it was still attached properly, so I shrugged and ignored it. Pain dissipated, I went about my business throughout the day. Tonight, I went to use the monitor to check my glucose before my meal, but got an error message saying I should try the monitor again in 10 minutes. So, I waited about 15, just to be on the safe side. Still getting the same error. I was hungry, so I decided to just check my glucose after I ate. That was about 30 minutes later, and the monitor was still telling me to wait 10 minutes. I thought maybe it needed to be charged, so I plugged it in. Another effort later and I still got an error message. Gingerly lifted up my sleeve to look at the sensor and make sure I was moving the monitor near enough to the site. Well, the monitor fell right out. The needle was bent. How, I don’t know, unless it happened while I was sleeping, because I never banged my arm against anything. I can’t afford to have to pay for sensors if they’re going to fall out so easily. Great concept, poor execution. Very, very disappointed. Going to cut my losses before I get too far in over my head.

  6. Tim Dixon August 29, 2018 at 1:10 pm - Reply

    I am on day 6 with the Libre. it will be the last day. When I started I chose to compare my old reliable One Test Ultra to the ” warmed up”sensor.For the next 2 days the sensor was 40 to 50 points lower. The sensor was 30 points lower than the Libra stick.And there was a 20 point difference when using a control solution. I contacted Libra Q/A and while the folks were very nice and polite had no idea how to explain the differences.Besides the first two terrible connections where I could not hear the lady from New Mexico,the only answers she could give me were clearly scripted They had me change the sensor ( which tells me the sensors are not reliable) and they would send me a new one. So I changed the sensors and the results did not change. I feel the way the product is being promoted is misleading. In their own words you CANNOT rely on the sensor for insulin decisions.You must draw blood before deciding on dosage.

    The sensors cannot go thru xray. I am in at least 8 airports per month. Sure I can ask for a special inspection. I don’t want to add another step each time I check in. Regardless of that I have to remove the one I have on. The flat packaging for strips is a good idea compared to the standard round stick container, but they are difficult to open and create additional waste. The idea, or so I thought, is that I could carry a reader, wear a sensor and go thru life without the hassles of kits and blood sticks. Not True. With the Libre I have to do everything I was doing before and more.

    This product is 2 years from being ready. Contact me when I can wear a sensor and carry a reader, accurate and reliable enough to make Insulin decisions with, that it can go through an airport without being damaged.

    • alicia downs August 29, 2018 at 1:49 pm - Reply

      Part of the discrepancy in readings may actually be your one touch meter. This is actually a meter with only 90% accuracy. the accuracy of the libre sensors has actually tested higher. Day one of sensor use is also a notoroiously inaccurate time. Finally CGMs have a delay, so if blood sugars are moving swiftly they will have a markedly different reading from a finger stick. CGM technology is coming along, but it still definitely has some limitations.
      As for wearability in the airport, these are all FDA required restrictions put on all worn diabetes devices at this point. (Unless companies spend a LOT of time and money testing their devices through different Xray equipment etc they just have to warn us not to wear them through.)
      Thanks for your input!

  7. Ernie August 30, 2018 at 4:19 pm - Reply

    First set of 3 sensors worked fine. But the first one of my next set of 3 (my Rx gets me three at a time) worked for a couple of days,then started giving me the “reading. it available – try again in ten minutes” message. Pretty much stopped working. Abbott cust support said they’d send me a replacement sensor. So I took off the bad sensor and put on a fresh one and waited the required 12 hours. This one failed immediately (try again in ten minutes). Cust Support said they’d send me another replacement. I have 1more sensor to try before I run out while I wait the estimated 7-10 days to receive the replacements..Will attach the remaining sensor today, but I don’t have very high hopes. These are not covered by my insurance because i’m not on insulin. i’m right on the edge of giving up on the system, but we’ll see…

  8. Staci Rullo September 2, 2018 at 11:48 am - Reply

    Having type one for 59 years I’m always looking for improvements to ease my control of the disease. Right now using a med Tronic 630 G which does not feed the CGM values to anthing other to the 630. Which means opening up your pants going into your pocket etc. the freestyle has worked very nicely but not any less better than the Cgm from Medtronic. And I have been using them for years. I still test at least 2 times a day and the freestyle is pretty close within 5% on each test. It’s not good with the low bs recovery. Takes time just like the CGM. I don’t like the 12 hour delay either we can live with it it’s different it’s easier for me and I’m using it now nothing is perfect as we all now

  9. Bill Patterson September 7, 2018 at 2:48 pm - Reply

    My insurance company wouldn’t cover it unless I was a Type 1 diabetic, but I purchased it anyway. The first patch stayed on 4 days and the second one, two hours. I followed the instructions exactly. So now I’m out $150 dollars, and back to the finger pricks.

  10. Johnny Lee September 12, 2018 at 6:22 pm - Reply

    I have several issues with the sensors in the short time that I have begun using the Libre CGM. So, far, 2 out of 4 sensors simply fell off my arm after 2 days. I didn’t bump into anything, they just fell off. When I touched the back of the sensor, it was NOT tacky at all. This appears to be a continuing problem for the Libre sensors. Very dissapointing considering that is takes 12 hours to warm-up for each new sensor so, after it falls off and you insert another one, you have to wait another 12 hours before getting readings.

    Another problem as described above, is the the Libre is anywhere from 25- 55 mg lower than the glucose meter. This is a huge variance because it means that your readings are low on the Libre so, when the actual glucose is much higher and you should be taking an adjustment or visa versa when the Libre is showing an extreme low when the actual glucose is well within range. This is not a one time occurrence. It is happening consistently so, for now, I am simply adding about 25 – 30 mg to the Libre reading to determine if I need to do anything.

    I am sure that my A1C will be higher next time because of the inaccuracies which is a major concern. This CGM system was supposed to help lower my A1C, not make it higher!

    After I use up my 90-day supply of sensors, I am very likely going to switch over to Dexcom’s new CGM.

    I definitely cannot recommend the Libre at this time, Abbott needs to seriously fix these problems immediately. What was once viewed as a savior to constant finger pricks is now a nightmare and we know that a fix is not around the corner since they just got FDA approval and only recently began sales for it so, the company is looking to recoup i’ts R&D and marketing costs for the initial launch before it will spend a lot of time and money trying to fix these issues. I hope that I am wrong but, that’s how companies usually operate.

  11. Dave Patula September 13, 2018 at 4:41 pm - Reply

    I recently purchased the freestyle Libre and three sensors with three sensor applicators.
    I was disappointed that I had to wait 12 hours before taking my first test but since I was going on a three day offshore fishing trip I thought I would get fast results while out fishing.
    After 3 days and now on the boat showering I pulled out the arm sensor while drying. Since I thought the sensor would last 10 days I did not bring a backup applicator or new sensor. Now finger stick tests were needed to get blood sugar results.
    When I returned home I applied a new sensor arm strip which again lasted only three days. This time I got an error message that said to re check in 10 minutes. After doing this three different times the meter said to replace the arm sensor and I noticed the arm sensor had come displaced.
    Using my last sensor applicator and strip I mistakenly pushed the applicator with the arm sensor attached without having placed the applicator on my arm.
    Now, I cannot use almost $120.00 of supplies which only gave me six days of results instead of the thirty days promised!
    The manufacturer has to come up with a much better adhesive for the arm sensor as I was extremely careful not to dislodge the second arm sensor pad.
    I cannot afford to continue to spend $4.00 per day for a reputed 30 day supply when in reality I spent $20.00 per day although the third sensor application was all my fault.

  12. katamae crow September 20, 2018 at 4:35 pm - Reply

    Wasnt satisfied with Libre. I dodnt want to trust readings if it was giving 75 to 100 readings from my blood glucose monitor. Tried it second day and I was was sticking my finger everytime because I didnt trust it.
    It didnt adhere to my skin if you sweat when you exercise, another 50.00 sensor.
    No reimbursements if your disatisfied.
    I will let my endocrinologist know regarding the Libre.
    I called and talked to Abbot all they could say is that they send another sensor. Didnt know a range that is a good range to be in????
    I would think twice…wished I did…

  13. Cara Brown September 21, 2018 at 11:22 am - Reply

    My husband decided to give this a try. He is a nurse/medic so finger sticks was something he wanted to avoid for himself. He tried 5 applications and the longest he was able to keep a sensor on was 5 days. At $75 a pop, we can not afford to keep up this pace. He tried additional items to keep the sensor on but to no avail. If they could fix the issue this would be a perfect fit for his busy, demanding lifestyle.

  14. Shawn Morris September 22, 2018 at 2:53 pm - Reply

    I have been using the libre for a couple of months now. I am Type I and I love it! No more sticking the finger. I can check it any time quickly and discreetly. I love that. It also tells how your sugar is trending – up, down, or stable. The charts and graphs are very helpful and can be passed along to the doctor. They explain everything without having to play 20 questions.They can also give you a good overview of how you are doing. It also calculates an average A1C. Im not sure how accurate that is, but it gives a reference point to be mindful of.

    The only downside I have found is when I work in the yard and get really hot and sweaty, it tends to come off. The folks at Freestyle have been great about replacing the ones that are not close to the 10 day mark.

    I did notice at first that the readings are about 5-10 off from my old trusty One Touch Ultra, but Im ok with that. It still keeps me on track. Since I am not a “brittle” diabetic, I keep it under pretty good control.

    In other conditions, it holds up fairly well. I have even been water skiing and it stayed on, to my surprise.

    I would definitely recommend it!

  15. Veronica Fitzgerald October 12, 2018 at 12:24 pm - Reply

    Just wondering is there a cream to numb the arm before u put on sensor .my son has thin arms and it hurts a bit .if so it would make things easier for us .looking forward to hearing from someone that can help me .

    • Gary Scheiner November 11, 2018 at 2:58 am - Reply

      There are several options — one is to rub an ice cube on the skin for a few minutes before inserting. There is also a numbing cream called “EMLA”, but it can leave the skin a bit greasy, so the tape might not hold as well.

  16. Jack October 12, 2018 at 4:09 pm - Reply

    I’m on my second sensor, I don’t like it!, It is consistently 20-40 points above my levels when I check my BG. I have called customer service and their response is that it is acceptable to have 20% higher readings with the Freestyle libre. I find it unacceptable.
    Funny thing is, I’m now doing more sticks than before, always double checking the Libre reader..

    I don’t believe it is worth the cost since I still have to buy sticks too. great concept, bad implementation.

  17. Mark Woodcock October 16, 2018 at 6:46 pm - Reply

    I actually have been loving the Freestyle Libre. My blood sugars are now under control thanks to the ease of use. I tried to get a Dexcom but can’t afford the $1500. The libre was much much more affordable. It is costing me about $70 a month, which is stretching my budget but I feel it is worth it for helping keep my glucose levels under control.

  18. Dominic Napolitano October 22, 2018 at 5:21 pm - Reply

    Does anyone else have issues when you put a new sensor on that you are not getting it activated after 12 or 24 hours? This is the second time this has happened to me and it’s very frustrating

  19. Toni Ma October 23, 2018 at 1:05 am - Reply

    I purchased the libre, one draw back was having to wait hours before you could even use it, pretty much 1 wasted day. The other draw back was it was 20 to 50 points higher than my regular finger probs,which is accurate. I will wait for more technology, and for the cost to come down. But it was nice to be able to check your blood sugar level anytime.

    • Gary Scheiner November 11, 2018 at 2:52 am - Reply

      FYI, Abbott just received approval for an updated Libre system that only has a 2-hour warmup.

  20. Shelly Stephens October 31, 2018 at 5:29 pm - Reply

    My dad has used 3 sensors, the first one came off in about 3 days. He removed his shirt and it hooked it. So the next time I put another one on and it did not seal the tape only sealed part of it. The third one we put on again worked but on the 3rd day I went to scan it and told me to replace it with a new one. These are not cheap. I’m really upset he lose over $100. He really liked it on the few days he had it on his arm. We even watched YouTube to make sure we put it on right.

  21. Staci D November 12, 2018 at 1:10 am - Reply

    I started using the Freestyle Libre 14-day sensors a little over two weeks ago. The first sensor stuck to my arm for the full 14 days. At the end of day 14, I still had to really pull it off- with the exceptions of the edges around the perimeter that started to lift a tiny bit at around day 11 or 12- it definitely stayed attached! No pan, no discomfort, and best of all, no itching (which is what I expected the most). And the sensor only takes 1 hour to activate! I don’t mind if the sensor reads a little high… I’d rather have it read too high than too low! If I think I’m too high, I know to eat healthier for my next meal/snack. And I never get dangerously low. And I’m not insulin dependent.

    • alicia downs November 12, 2018 at 5:33 pm - Reply

      Thanks for sharing your experience Staci! Libre is definitely a fantastic option for those who are not insulin dependent.

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