I was surprised and excited to see yesterday in my facebook feed advertising for a needleless glucose monitor for people with diabetes- could this be true? And why did I find out on facebook rather than from my medical journals?
I was vaguely aware that companies like Apple had been desperately trying to make some super sensitive watch to pick up sugar levels as it now does for heart rate, and indeed needleless sugar measurement has very much been the holy grail of medical technology companies for decades.
Not so easy to do the medical engineers will tell you, as sugar is a tiny, not very remarkable molecule that actually is quite diluted and hard to pick up indirectly in the blood. All sorts of inventive scientific approaches have been in the pipeline for a while, measurement of sugar through a contact lens type system, and even a clip to go on your earlobe- mmm- fashionable and measures sugar too!
But the non-invasive glucose monitor that I have been reading about is the Freestyle libre, which I must admit I've already ordered to be delivered to the clinic to give it a go. It seems looking at their website videos that a sensor needs to be adhered to the back of the arm and then the mini mobile-phone-looking reading device just needs to be waived nearby to report sugar levels.
The potential of this is really exciting especially for people with type I diabetes who get fed up pricking their fingers to check their blood sugars many times a day and for many, they live with a sense of anxiety that maybe they will drop the sugar and have a hypo (low sugar attack).
Cost is going to be a big issue, and most punters are going to need to have it subsidised by the government. My understanding is that the reader costs A$95 for the actual reading device - and then the disposable sensors for the arm, which last for about two weeks, also each cost A$95! This its going to get very pricey. I did notice that in France anyway, the health system is planning to subsidise.
In any case, like all great new technologies version 1 may have a few kinks to iron out, but we seem to be happily on the track to a practical and useful way to measure sugar quickly and unobtrusively so people can get on with their lives. And no doubt price too will drop with economies of scale and improvements.
My prediction is that people with type I diabetes will be the early adopters of this technology, but as it gets better I am sure that the millions of people with type 2 diabetes will get on board.
Endocrinologists are already talking about the value of this type of ambulatory glucose monitoring being a much better refection of sugar levels than the Hba1C.
Anyway, I will report back once mine arrives at the clinic and I am looking forward to checking out its ease-of-use and accuracy!
If you want to find out more about general information about diabetes checkout my diabetes information video on familydoctor.expert
Dr Grant Blashki
Conflict of Interest Declaration
Dr Grant Blashki has received no direct or indirect support from makers of the Freestyle libre (actually I have never had any contact with them at all)