Abbott Freestyle Libre Three 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 to make sure my blood sugar is within the normal range.

Continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) allow diabetics to track their blood sugar 24/7. They are incredibly useful, providing insight into how your blood sugar is responding to insulin, food, exercise and anything else that affects it.

Abbott Laboratories and Dexcom are leaders in 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 sales of $3.7 billion last year with 4 million users worldwide.

Abbott just released its newest CGM, the FreeStyle Libre 3. It comes with a major upgrade. While the 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 straight to your phone.

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

How it works

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

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

CNBC | Erin Black

The app requires a scan of the sensor and then takes 60 minutes to warm up. A blood drop icon will appear during the first 12 hours.

Abbott Freestyle Libre 3 iPhone App

CNBC | Andrew Evers

Abbott says the sensor is acclimating. It is also recommended to use a blood glucose meter to ensure the sensor is accurate. I found it to be accurate right away, even while warming up.

Abbott Freestyle Libre3

CNBC | Erin Black

The sensor remains switched on for 14 days. There is a new reading every minute, compared to one reading every five minutes from the Dexcom G6. The adhesive worked well and showed no signs of falling off after two weeks. It still doesn’t require fingersticks or calibration.

Abbott Freestyle Libre 3 sensor

CNBC | Andrew Evers

The trend arrows show you if your glucose level is steady, rising, or falling. The alerts are customizable. If you want to silence low and high alarms, you can use the app’s Do Not Disturb feature. The urgent low alarm cannot be silenced as required by the FDA.

The app has some useful features for tracking average glucose levels and time in range, and gives you the option to share the data with loved ones. It also has a reporting feature that gives you insight into patterns so you can make dose adjustments.

The Libre 3 is small and accurate

I love how small it is, so small I kept forgetting I was wearing it. I put my Dexcom G6 nearby for comparison. There is one big difference.

Abbott Freestyle Libre 3 size vs Dexcom G6

CNBC | Erin Black

It was accurate 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 became inaccurate and difficult to keep up.

I had two compression lows on the first sensor. A compression dip is when the sensor gives a false low reading. One occurred while I was sleeping on my side and the other while I was sitting on the couch leaning on the sensor. I readjusted and the device quickly corrected itself. I made sure to choose a better placement for the second sensor.

The app can be improved

You cannot adjust the chart size in the app. It shows a range from 50 mg/dl to 350 mg/dl. I would like the ability to adjust this to be a bit tighter because my blood sugar rarely goes above 250mg/dl so a lot of space is wasted.

There is also no way to zoom in on past readings. Sometimes when I’m low I want to be able to zoom in and see how quickly the number changes. And while it sends notifications to my iWatch, Abbott doesn’t have an app compatible with it yet, so it’s not possible to see your blood sugar on your watch. Abbott says it’s something they’re working on for the future.

Abbott Freestyle Libre 3 Apple iWatch notification

CNBC | Erin Black

Prescription required, price varies

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

Would I recommend this 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 it’s working on pump integration 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 who are on a diet to control their diabetes, this is a great way to monitor blood sugar.

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