Continuous Glucose Monitoring Systems: Are They Right for You?

By Joel Salazar, Pharm D Candidate Class of 2022
The University of Arizona College of Pharmacy

August 23, 2021

CGM Glucose

If you’re like most diabetic patients, you are likely testing your blood sugar more than once a day. You may also be using a lancet device to prick your finger to get a reading. Doing this more than once a day can be tedious and a little painful.

Here’s some good news: recent glucose monitors avoid the need to prick your finger to get your glucose reading.  They’re called continuous glucose monitors (CGM). Several product options are now available on the market, including Freestyle Libre and Dexcom brands.

How do continuous glucose monitors work?

Rather than measuring your blood glucose, Freestyle Libre works by measuring interstitial fluid. This fluid is a thin layer found just beneath your skin. The monitor uses an applicator device to position the sensor on a clean area of the skin. Once it’s applied, you can then activate the sensor with the reader. All of this is done without any pain or need for calibration.

After about 60 minutes, the device will start to give you glucose readings. To get a current reading, swipe your phone or handheld reader near the sensor. You can also download the app to see your daily patterns of glucose for the past 8 hours. Freestyle Libre’s sensor must be changed every 14 days.

Dexcom G6 works very similar to Freestyle Libre, except its sensors are replaced every 10 days instead of 14.  You also don’t have to swipe your reader close to your sensor to get a reading.  This monitor allows you to share your data with up to 10 followers, including your doctor.

Advantages of CGMs

One of the significant advantages of using continuous glucose monitors is avoiding painful finger sticks. You can also view your glucose throughout the day and monitor it at any time without using any blood.

These devices are especially beneficial for people who have difficulty maintaining their glucose at a normal range. They provide a broader look at your glucose numbers throughout your day. Equipped with this information, your doctor can provide you with a more specific treatment plan to better control your blood sugars.  As an added benefit, CGMs alert you when your blood sugar is either too high or too low.  

Insurance coverage

Insurance coverage for these devices can vary depending on whether you’re on insulin or how many times a day you currently test. A good first step is to call your insurance company and ask if they cover any CGMs. You can then ask your doctor to prescribe the covered product. Keep in mind that some insurance companies do require extra steps before approving CGM coverage.

Affording a CGM out-of-pocket

If your insurance plan doesn’t cover CGMs, they can be costly when paying out-of-pocket. Ask your provider or pharmacist how to save money on your CGM prescription. Consider using a prescription discount card like ScriptSave WellRx for your medication purchases to make more room in your budget. Signing up is free, easy, and can help save you more on your next trip to the pharmacy.

 

References:

https://www.abbott.com/corpnewsroom/diabetes-care/revolutionizing-cgm-with-freestyle-libre.html

https://www.freestyle.abbott/us-en/how-to-use.html

https://www.dexcom.com/g6-cgm-system

https://www.healthline.com/diabetesmine/what-is-continuous-glucose-monitor-and-choosing-one#What-is-continuous-glucose-monitoring-(CGM)?

 

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