Abbott Freestyle Libre 3 CGM for diabetics

  • I have had type 1 diabetes for 25 years. Like the tens of millions of Americans with diabetes, one of the most important things I need to do to stay healthy is make sure my blood sugar is within the normal range.

Continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) allow people with diabetes to monitor their blood sugar levels 24/7. They’re incredibly helpful, providing insight into how your blood sugar responds to insulin, food, exercise, and anything that affects it.

Abbott Laboratories and Dexcom are the leaders of the CGM market, which reached $5.1 billion in revenue in 2021 and is expected to reach $13.2 billion by 2028, according to Vantage Market Research. Abbott’s CGM systems, called FreeStyle Libre, generated $3.7 billion in revenue last year, with 4 million users worldwide.

Abbott just released their latest CGM, the FreeStyle Libre 3. It comes with a major update. While previous systems were “flash” CGMs, meaning you had to hold your reader or phone close to the sensor to get a reading, the new version sends data directly to your phone.

I tried it for over a month. Here are my takeaways:

How it works

The inserter comes in a small box and is rather compact. Libre 3 is only approved by the Food and Drug Administration to enter the arm. Insertion was painless and the sensor itself is tiny compared to others I’ve used.

CNBC’s Erin Black tests the new CGM Abbott Freestyle Libre 3

CNBC | Erin Black

The application requires a sensor scan, then it takes 60 minutes to warm up. For the first 12 hours, a blood drop icon appears.

Abbott Freestyle Libre 3 iPhone App

CNBC | Andrew Evers

Abbott says the sensor is acclimatizing. He also advises using a blood glucose meter to ensure the sensor is accurate. I found it to be accurate immediately, even as it warmed up.

Abbott Freestyle Libre 3

CNBC | Erin Black

The sensor stays on for 14 days. It gives a new reading every minute, compared to the Dexcom G6 reading every five minutes. The adhesive worked well and showed no signs of falling off after two weeks. It still does not require fingers or calibration.

Abbott Freestyle Libre 3 Sensor

CNBC | Andrew Evers

Trend arrows show you whether your blood sugar is stable, rising, or falling. Alarms are customizable. If you want to turn off low and high alerts, you can use the app’s “do not disturb” feature. The Urgent Low Alarm cannot be disabled as required by the FDA.

The app has useful features to track average blood sugar and time in range and gives you the option to share the data with your loved ones. It also has a reports feature that gives you an overview of patterns so you can make dosage adjustments.

The Libre 3 is small and precise

I love how small it is, so small in fact that I forgot I was wearing it. I put my Dexcom G6 nearby to compare. There is a big difference.

Size Abbott Freestyle Libre 3 vs Dexcom G6

CNBC | Erin Black

It was correct most of the time. But I found that during times of rapid change, like when I forgot to take my insulin after a meal, it got inaccurate and had trouble keeping up.

I had two compression stockings with the first sensor. Low compression occurs when the sensor gives an incorrect low reading. One happened while I was sleeping on my side and the other while I was sitting on the couch and leaning on the sensor. I readjusted and the device quickly corrected. I made sure to choose a better placement for the second sensor.

The app can be improved

In the app, you cannot customize the chart size. It shows a range of 50 mg/dL to 350 mg/dL. I wish I could adjust this to be a little tighter as my blood sugar rarely goes above 250mg/dl so there is a lot of wasted space.

There is also no ability to zoom in on past readings. Sometimes when I’m low I like to be able to zoom in and see how fast the number is changing. And while it sends notifications to my iWatch, Abbott doesn’t yet have a compatible app to use with it, so seeing your blood sugar on your watch isn’t possible. Abbott says this is something they are working on for the future.

Notification Apple iWatch Abbott Freestyle Libre 3

CNBC | Erin Black

Prescription required, variable price

Libre 3 requires a prescription, so the cost will be different for everyone. Abbott said insured users can expect to pay $0 to $25 per sensor and $70 per sensor without insurance. You will need to buy two per month.

Would I recommend it to other diabetics? Yes, but it depends on the user. For diabetics like me who use insulin pumps, the Libre 3 is not yet compatible. Abbott said he was working on integrating the pump with Tandem Diabetes and Insulet. The company is also working with Bigfoot Biomedical on integration with its insulin delivery system.

For diabetics who rely on manual insulin injections or diet to manage their diabetes, this is a great way to monitor blood sugar.

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