Modern medicine has made the treatment of diabetes fairly simple. A patient gets a blood sugar reading, and then injects the appropriate amount of insulin. The process is made much simpler through the use of handheld glucometers that require just a tiny drop of blood from a fingerstick. Still, pricking your finger many times throughout the day can be uncomfortable, inconvenient, and time consuming. The advent of continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) systems lets patients wear an unobtrusive sensor that measures blood sugar around the clock instead of infrequent intervals, but these still have to be calibrated or their results confirmed using a fingerstick and a glucometer.
That has now changed. The FDA has approved the FreeStyle Libre Flash CGM system, made by Abbott, for adults with diabetes to make treatment decisions without any additional fingersticks. It takes 12 hours to start up initially, but can then be worn for up to ten days. The patient places a simple handheld reader near the sensor at any time to get a current measurement. The wireless reader connection works through clothing, making it convenient and unobtrusive to use. The reader also displays the past 8 hours of data and indicates the current trend either up or down. In trials, patients using the system spend 38% less time with low glucose levels, meaning that they were able to stay within their target range more consistently.
The system is scheduled to start shipping soon. It still has some limitations. For example, it cannot issue alarms such as when a patient’s blood sugar gets low at night. It is an important step towards a more discreet and convenient way to monitor blood sugar, however, and should result in better patient compliance with glucose monitoring and making better decisions about insulin doses. Products like this will continue to make it easier and more effective for diabetes patients to manage their condition.