Conference Coverage

Diabetes hospitalizations halved with FreeStyle Libre glucose monitor



The Abbott FreeStyle Libre glucose monitoring system significantly reduced hospitalizations for diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), diabetes-related emergencies, and all-cause hospitalizations among patients with diabetes, data from two new studies indicate.

The results were presented June 13 during the virtual American Diabetes Association (ADA) 80th Scientific Sessions.

One large database analysis, from France, revealed that use of the Libre system halved hospitalization rates for DKA among people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

In the other study, a retrospective analysis of data from over 1200 insulin-treated individuals with type 2 diabetes in the United States, use of the Libre was associated with significant reductions in both hospitalizations for acute diabetes-related emergency events and all-cause hospitalizations.

The Libre system reads glucose levels through a sensor worn on the back of the upper arm for up to 14 days. Users wave a scanner over the device to obtain a reading.

Asked to comment, Nicholas Argento, MD, diabetes technology director at Maryland Endocrine and Diabetes, Columbia, told Medscape Medical News: “One of the biggest problems with access to continuous glucose monitoring is cost. Payers need to see that there’s some cost-saving to offset the cost of paying for these devices. I think both of these studies are important for that reason.”

However, Argento also said he recommends that people with type 1 diabetes use the Dexcom continuous glucose monitor (CGM) if possible rather than the Libre, despite the former’s higher cost, because it has an alarm feature that the Libre doesn’t and is more accurate in the hypoglycemic range.

Large French study: Libre cuts DKA hospitalizations by 50%

The FreeStyle Libre system has been reimbursed in France since June 1, 2017 for patients over 4 years of age with type 1 or type 2 diabetes who take at least 3 insulin injections per day or use an insulin pump.

Dr. Ronan Roussel of Hôpital Bichat, Assistance Publique Hôpitaux de Paris (France) Sara Freeman/MDedge News

Dr. Ronan Roussel

The new results were presented by Ronan Roussel, MD, PhD, chief of the endocrinology, diabetes, and nutrition department at Hôpital Bichat, Fédération de Diabétologie, AP-HP, Paris, France.

The DKA hospitalization data Roussel reported were part of a larger longitudinal retrospective cohort study looking at overall prescribing and use of the Libre system, and its impact on healthcare outcomes and associated costs in standard practice in France. The data came from a large nationwide claims database containing all healthcare expenses for over 66 million people.

The current study participants were 74,076 individuals with at least a full year of follow-up beginning in 2017 with the date of first reimbursement for the FreeStyle Libre system. Of those, 44.8% (33,203) had type 1 diabetes and 55.2% (40,955) had type 2 diabetes.

Prior to initiation of Libre use, about a quarter of each group was using 0 fingerstick test strips per day, about 19% of the type 1 diabetes group and 28% of the type 2 diabetes group were using 1-3 strips per day, and about half of both groups were using 4 or more strips per day.

Compared with the year prior to the date of first reimbursement for the Libre, hospitalization rates for DKA during the first year of Libre use fell by 52% in the type 1 diabetes group, from 5.46 to 2.59 per 100 patient-years, and by 47% in the type 2 diabetes group, from 1.70 to 0.90 per 100 patient-years.

The impact of Libre on DKA hospitalizations was most dramatic among those not using any test strips prior to Libre use, with a 60% reduction for the type 1 diabetes group (8.31 to 3.31 per 100 patient-years) and a 51% reduction in the type 2 diabetes group (2.51 to 1.23 per 100 patient-years).

But interestingly, the next-biggest impact was among those who had been using more than 5 test strips per day, with drops of 59% among those with type 1 diabetes (5.55 to 2.26 per 100 patient-years) and 52% in the type 2 diabetes group (1.88 to 0.90 per 100 patient-years).

This finding is important for the United States, Argento said, because some insurers, including Medicare, require that the patient performs at least 4 fingerstick glucose measurements per day to qualify for reimbursement for the Libre or any CGM system.

“I think that speaks to the importance of not requiring that patients first show they’re frequently doing self-blood glucose monitoring before they can get these devices,” he observed.

The large benefit in the high strip use group is interesting too, Argento said. “It’s a different group of people. They’re more engaged in their care...This U-shaped curve they showed is fascinating.”

Reductions in DKA hospitalizations were also similar between patients using insulin pumps and those using multiple daily injections of insulin, Roussel reported.

“It is plausible that use of the FreeStyle Libre system allowed people to detect and limit persistent hyperglycemia, and subsequently ketoacidosis,” Roussel said.

“This analysis has significant implications for patient-centered clinical care in diabetes and also for long-term health economic outcomes in the treatment of diabetes at a national level.”


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