FDA OKs first continuous blood sugar monitor without finger prick tests

This photo provided by Abbott Laboratories ...

Abbott Laboratories via AP

This photo provided by Abbott Laboratories demonstrates the use of the company’s FreeStyle Libre flash glucose monitoring device. The Food and Drug Administration has approved the device, which continuously monitors diabetics’ blood sugar levels without requiring backup finger prick tests. Current models require users to test a drop of blood twice daily to calibrate, or adjust, the monitor.

U.S. regulators have approved the first continuous blood sugar monitor for diabetics that doesn’t need backup finger prick tests.

Current models require users to test a drop of blood twice daily to calibrate, or adjust, the monitor.

The pain of finger sticks and the cost of testing supplies discourage many people from keeping close tabs on their blood sugar, which is needed to manage insulin use and adjust what they eat.

Abbott’s new FreeStyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitoring System, approved Wednesday by the Food and Drug Administration, uses a small sensor attached to the upper arm. Patients wave a reader device over it to see the current blood sugar level and changes over the past eight hours.

Most of the 30 million Americans with diabetes use standard glucose meters, which require multiple finger pricks each day and only show current sugar level. More-accurate continuous glucose monitoring devices are used by about 345,000 Americans.

But most don’t do the finger pricks to calibrate them and may get inaccurate readings, said Dr. Timothy Bailey, who helped test FreeStyle Libre.

“We’re able to lower blood sugar safely” with this technology, said Bailey, director of the Advanced Metabolic Care and Research Institute in California. He receives consulting fees from various diabetes device makers.

Too-high blood sugar levels can damage organs and lead to heart attacks, strokes, blindness and amputations. Very low blood sugar can cause seizures, confusion and loss of consciousness.

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