Abbott Freestyle Libre blood glucose sensor

NEWS

KIT

REPORT

Significant investment by Abbott in its FreeStyle Libre sensor

means that recent supply issues are being resolved.

Abbott's FreeStyle Libre

has been a product of

its own success, with

a demand that soon

outstripped supply.

The innovate blood glucose sensor

was launched four years ago. At that

point Abbott undertook two unusual

strategies. First, it aimed to convince

users of the product's efficacy as well as

convince healthcare professionals, and

it engaged with social media, a brave

and unexpected step for a large and

established pharmaceutical company.

British based product manager

Jared Watkin, who has a degree in biochemistry,

had overseen an earlier piece of

diabetes kit, Abbott's FreeStyle Navigator,

an early continuous glucose monitoring

(CGM) device. Watkin has been with

Abbott since 1996 and has held various

positions, including Senior R&D Director

and Divisional Vice President, Research

and Development. During these periods he

took the earlier device and totally rethought

its form, coming up with the idea of an onbody sensor that could be scanned, thus

developing the FreeStyle Libre.

From that point on, the challenge was

to see how patients reacted to it, both in

terms of its usability, as well as it having an

effect on blood glucose control.

An online webshop was launched

to sell the Libre in 2014, and sales took

off like a runaway train. Nice problem to

have? Actually, Watkin does not think so.

"It's been quite a journey to get here with

Libre," he said, speaking at an event in

Sensor supply news

Dublin at the end of July. "The uptake

has been massive - so much so, we had

to close the shops to new customers in

order to service the existing ones. We

also then went to senior management

at Abbott with proof of the concept, and

asked for funds to build new factories to

build and assemble the Libre sensors and

applicators."

A new factory based just outside of

Dublin is now up to full capacity, making

the Libre product 24/7. Also at the event,

Steve House, divisional vice president,

worldwide operations, Abbott Diabetes

Care, added to the story, saying, "We

literally had drawings of the product

to start with, which we made into

prototypes, then we had to 'back-think'

the facilities and machines to actually

make the product in quantity. My team

and Jared's had to design and create

the machines which we initially had in our

Witney facility near Oxford, and now have

in two factories, both based in Ireland.

And we can announce significantly more

expansion to come in order to keep up

with demand as word-of-mouth grows."

Explosion in demand

Watkin, while pleased that demand

was created, is also aware that it was

distressing for patients to be put in a

position of wanting to use a product that

they found helped their control, yet were

unable to get hold of. He recalls, "We

initially launched in seven countries in

continued over

People depend on our

product for their health,

it's not like having a

delay on getting a

new smartphone. -

Jared Watkin, senior

vice president Abbott

Diabetes Care

"

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  11. Abbott Freestyle Libre blood glucose sensor
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  13. Diabetes UK helpline
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  20. Professor John Pickup diabetes research, insulin pump research
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  25. Ascensia Contour Next One Diabetes blood test meters
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  28. Language matters in diabetes care
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  30. Making Carbs Count cherries
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  32. Accu-Chek Insight insulin pump
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  34. Free diabetes magazine from Desang Diabetes Media

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