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FreeStyle Libre Now Available in Major US Pharmacies

By Amelia Dmowska and Adam Brown

Abbott’s no-calibration CGM available at pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens for a cash price ranging from about $36-$53/10-day sensor; get cost and prescription details here

Two months after approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre (real time) continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is now on the shelves of major pharmacies in the US, including CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Rite Aid, and Kroger’s/Smith’s. The long awaited sensor finally comes to the US more than three years after it launched in Europe. Here are all the details on how to get one and what it costs.

How can I get FreeStyle Libre?

A prescription is required to get FreeStyle Libre in the US, and Abbott’s website has a helpful prescription request form – after filling it out with your information, Abbott will actually request a prescription from your healthcare provider. To help start a conversation with your provider, Abbott also has a discussion guide. Healthcare professionals can also visit Provider.FreeStyleLibre.us.

How much does FreeStyle Libre cost? Does it have insurance coverage?  

US insurance companies, Medicare, and Medicaid do not yet cover FreeStyle Libre in the US, meaning people with diabetes will need to pay cash for it in pharmacies. Abbott has made the cash price of FreeStyle Libre less than other systems – both for individual sensors and for the reader devices. Below are the price ranges at major pharmacies we called.  

In our research, FreeStyle Libre is the least expensive at Walmart, where each 10-day sensor is $35.99, and each reader device (one time purchase) is $69.99. Please note that diaTribe contacted individual pharmacies to get this information; prices at your local pharmacy may differ.

CVS

  • 10-day Libre Sensor - $52.99 each (about $159 per month)

  • Reader (one time purchase) - $96.99

Kroger’s/Smith’s:

  • 10-day Libre Sensor - $42.99 each (about $129 per month)

  • Reader (one time purchase) - $83.99

Walgreens

  • 10-day Libre Sensor - $42.99 each (about $129 per month)

  • Reader (one time purchase) - $84.99

Walmart

  • 10-day Libre sensor - $35.99 (about $108 per month) – Walmart noted this price is subject to change

  • Reader (one time purchase) - $69.99 – Walmart noted this price is subject to change

Rite Aid

  • Sensor and reader prices not shared when we called.

If you currently have coverage for a CGM device through insurance, it’s possible paying cash for FreeStyle Libre will be more or less expensive than what you pay now.

When will insurance companies, Medicare, and Medicaid cover FreeStyle Libre? How much will I have to pay out of pocket when it is covered?

Abbott is currently in reimbursement talks for FreeStyle Libre with US insurance companies, Medicare, and Medicaid. diaTribe expects that the FreeStyle Libre will eventually qualify for Medicare coverage since the FDA approved it as a replacement for “routine fingersticks” in making treatment decisions, similar to Dexcom’s G5, which is now covered by Medicare. We expect FreeStyle Libre will have a copay in pharmacies once decisions about reimbursement are reached, which will obviously vary based on the insurance plan. Copays can often be as low as $0 or $15 per month, though it’s not clear what insurance companies will charge patients once the device is covered. There is not a set timeline for when coverage might be announced or begin. To receive the latest updates on reimbursement, sign up at www.freestylelibre.us.

Hold up! What is FreeStyle Libre?

FreeStyle Libre consists of a small, water-proof, fully disposable sensor worn on the arm for 10 days, plus a reader device. When scanned over the sensor, the reader shows a real-time glucose reading and trend arrow, which is approved to dose insulin without an accompanying fingerstick. Unlike other CGM devices, FreeStyle Libre does not require any fingerstick calibrations. However, it does have a 12-hour “warmup” period after insertion (when no real-time data is displayed), meaning users will need to take fingersticks during that time. It’s possible to get around this if a user buys two readers and overlaps sensor wear times; more on that here.

FreeStyle Libre is considered a “continuous glucose monitor” (CGM), since it collects a glucose value every minute and displays a number and trend arrow on the reader. However, it does not have alarms and does not communicate continuously with the handheld reader device as other CGM devices do (e.g., Dexcom, Medtronic). To obtain a real-time glucose number and trend, the sensor must be manually “scanned” (within 1.5 inches) using the reader device. This can be done through clothing, making it far less visible, obtrusive, and painful than a fingerstick. Libre’s readings are not impacted by acetaminophen (Tylenol or similar). At launch, FreeStyle Libre does not have smartphone connectivity, so users will not be able to share data with caregivers via LibreLinkUp.

For more information about how FreeStyle Libre works and how it’s different from other CGM devices, read our in-depth diaTribe article here

[Image credit: Abbott]

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