Medtech innovation briefing: FreeStyle Libre for glucose monitoring


Skin sensor offers alternative to traditional finger-prick test for people with type 1 and 2 diabetes

  • Medtech Innovation Briefing outlines potential use for FreeStyle Libre flash glucose monitoring system, which measures interstitial fluid glucose levels in people with diabetes
  • Sensor applied to the skin provides alternative to routine finger-prick blood glucose testing and can produce a near-continuous record of measurements in people with type 1 and 2 diabetes who use insulin injections
  • Includes evidence from two randomised controlled trials

Widespread use of an innovative sensor-based glucose monitoring system could reduce the number of traditional finger-prick tests needed and the time patients spend in hypoglycaemia, according to new evidence.

The FreeStyle Libre flash glucose monitoring system from Abbott Diabetes Care is the subject of a new Medtech innovation Briefing from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

It measures glucose levels via a sensor applied to the skin as an alternative to routine finger-prick blood glucose testing, and can produce a near-continuous record of measurements which can be accessed on demand. It can also indicate glucose level trends over time.

It is intended as an alternative to routine blood glucose monitoring in people with type 1 and 2 diabetes who use insulin injections.

The briefing covers current evidence from a number of clinical studies involving 700 people.

One study reported device accuracy and acceptability of 97-99% compared with venous blood sampling.

The evidence suggests that using FreeStyle Libre for up to 12 months reduces time spent in hypoglycaemia compared with self-monitoring of blood glucose using fingerprick tests, and significantly reduces the average number of finger-prick blood glucose tests needed.

However, a key uncertainty around the evidence is that the randomised controlled trial of people with type 1 diabetes included only adults whose diabetes was well controlled.

“The resource impact is uncertain”, the briefing states, “and depends upon the extent to which improved glucose control through the adoption of FreeStyle Libre translates into fewer complications, reduced emergency admissions, and less use of glucose test strips.”

NICE Medtech Innovation Briefings aim to support NHS and social care commissioners and staff who are considering using new medical devices and other medical or diagnostic technologies. The information provided includes a description of the technology, how it’s used, and its potential role in the treatment pathway.

They also include a review of relevant published evidence and the likely costs of using the technology, but they are not NICE guidance and do not make any recommendations on the value of using the technologies. Whether or not to use the products described is entirely the choice of local staff.

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However, the briefings will help to avoid the need for organisations to produce similar information, so saving staff time, effort and resources.