On behalf of my patients who struggle with the discomfort of having to poke their fingers to check their blood sugars every day, I am super excited about a new poke-free technology that will hopefully be approved in Canada soon – the Freestyle Libre.  With this glucose monitoring system, a small patch is applied to the upper arm with a tiny filament underneath which inserts under the skin. Wave your glucose monitor over the patch and voilà! – the last 8 hours of blood sugars, including current blood sugar, are transmitted to your monitor for evaluation.  Not only that, but it tells you the current trend in sugar (ie if your blood sugar is on its way up, down, or stable).

In the first randomized controlled trial of this device, it has now been show that monitoring with the Libre helps patients with type 1 diabetes prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugars).  The study, published in The Lancet, randomized 241 patients with good blood sugar control to the Libre vs usual monitoring with finger pokes.  They found that over 6 months, people using the Libre spent 38% less time with low blood sugars than people using standard finger pokes.  (Despite this benefit, people using the Libre still spent a shocking 2 hours per day with low blood sugar, compared to 3.3 hours per day for people taking finger pokes – so clearly a better monitoring approach is only part of the solution.)

Ten patients reported concerns related to the sensor, primarily itching, allergic reaction, or redness at the site (not out of keeping of the usual risk of reactions to medical devices that stick to the
skin).  Some aspects of quality of life were reported to be improved as well – not surprising,  since studies have shown that people with diabetes who have had severe low blood sugar in the past fear this occurring again as much as they fear blindness as a complication of their diabetes.
It would be interesting for this study to be repeated in people with type 2 diabetes, and also to compare the Libre to the continuous glucose monitoring system.
Bottom Line: The Libre would be a strong addition to our blood glucose monitoring options for diabetes in Canada.

Disclaimer: I have received honoraria as a continuing medical education speaker and consultant from the makers of the Freestyle Libre (Abbott). 

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